As the Minnesota Timberwolves inched closer and closer to a playoff berth last season, they began to garner more attention.
That attention culminated during a thrilling play-in game victory over the Los Angeles Clippers and the ensuing playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies, which was one of the best series of the entire postseason. The Wolves had finally (sort of) arrived nationally.
Nobody popped more in a high pressure environment than Anthony Edwards.
His performance to beat the Clippers was dazzling, but it was his 36-point playoff debut on the road in Memphis that really set his hype train into overdrive.
As fun as that was, there was a quote that Ant gave to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports following his Game 1 explosion that bugged me at the time, exposing everything that is wrong with the way the NBA markets up-and-coming teams and players.
Edwards stated the following:
“I think it’s very important to play at my best because they hide me during the regular season as far as no national TV games,” Edwards told Yahoo Sports after the 130-117 win. “So, people don’t really get to see me play unless I have an enormous game where I score 40-something or hit a game-winning shot or I get a huge dunk. I feel like games like this, I have to take advantage of because it’s the only time I get to be on TV so I’m trying to showcase my talent and everything I can do. “I want the world to know I’m a great person. I’m always smiling, trying to light up the room and I want to see everybody be successful.”
It’s awesome that Ant wants to show everyone who he is, mostly because Ant is genuinely the best. It’s nearly impossible to find an athlete as good as Edwards at such a young age who is also so charismatic, genuine and magnetizing. People gravitate towards Ant every chance they get, but people outside of Minnesota rarely got the opportunity to do so. Jim from Sacramento isn’t going to know he loves Anthony Edwards if his only chance to see him play is during random Wolves/Kings matchups.
I don’t want to make this a “small market” rant about how the league makes it more difficult for certain teams to succeed than it should be, but it is pretty damning for one of the most marketable young stars in the league to say he feels “hidden” by the NBA and their TV partners. That’s bad! Really bad!
It was somewhat obvious by the end of his rookie season that Edwards was a star in the making, and that the Wolves could be a solid-to-good team in the upcoming year. It required just a little bit of foresight to make sure Minnesota made it on the national TV calendar a few more times.
Ant won’t be “hidden” any longer, though. After rarely getting on national television last year, the Wolves will be on ESPN, TNT or NBATV 16 times this year, with 10 of those appearances being on ESPN or TNT. Better late than never, right?
The Wolves as a whole deserve a lot of credit for making themselves both competent and interesting, which is how most “small market” teams end up on national TV. The fit with Rudy Gobert and the rest of the Wolves is a talking point that’ll surely have people intrigued all year long, and rightfully so. As important as it was for them to be good and interesting, nothing should have mattered more for this team getting on national TV than having Anthony DeVante Edwards on their team.
Funny enough, I think Minnesota getting on national TV more often helps the Wolves on the court, too. With Edwards specifically, we’ve seen that he’s able to get himself up and ready to play for big occasions, but his consistency can wane in random trips to, say, Sacramento is February. That’s not unusual for young players to go through, but it is a theme of sorts with Ant, so getting him in more big games should be a good thing for the Wolves as well.
All in all, it’s a great thing that the Minnesota Timberwolves are going to get a little more publicity this year. They have a budding star with an infectious personality.
Better late than never, but never late is better.