The Minnesota Timberwolves’ November 6th matchup against the Boston Celtics was an important one to say the least. This game was a litmus test for the Wolves, who had the top-ranked defense and were set to battle against the best offense (and arguably the best team) in the NBA so far this season. Energy was high as a jam-packed Target Center anticipated a dogfight that they would do anything they could to help their team come out on top.
When the game began I noticed something that was very unique to this matchup (as I am sure many of you did as well). The Celtics had decided to put Kristaps Porziņģis on Jaden McDaniels. Boston’s thought process was likely that Minnesota has plenty of potent offensive weapons that they deploy on a nightly basis, and that the C’s were going to live with leaving Slim open for the majority of the matchup.
This strategy seemed to work for the first part of the game, as McDaniels started off ice cold, shooting 1/9 from the floor. The 23-year-old was understandably upset at his performance to begin the game and it was clear to see on the court. This is where Edwards showcased his leadership and his ability to lift others up when they are down. With three and a half minutes left in the second quarter and the Timberwolves down by six, Anthony Edwards, who had 15 points at the time and was on fire for most of the half, drove down the center of the lane and could have drawn a foul or taken a contested floater or layup. A shot that no one would have second guessed. Instead, he kicks it out to his McDaniels, who drills the corner 3-pointer. This play was immediately followed by a Boston timeout. The fourth-year player walks up to his teammate and friend and claps his hands, yells and pumps McDaniels’ chest in an effort to keep his friend’s confidence high despite the rough start.
That is where everything turned around for the fourth year pro.
Jaden McDaniels transition corner 3, created by the rebound + pass from Anthony Edwards pic.twitter.com/cZsmTjGIDP— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) November 7, 2023
Jaden McDaniels was 1/9 prior to this moment. Not only did Anthony Edwards continue to trust his teammate, but he also gave him a pep talk after the make.— Kyle Theige (@KyleTheige) November 7, 2023
Jaden went on to shoot 6/8 after this, including 12 big points in the 4th/OT.
After this play (as our friend Kyle Theige tweeted above), McDaniels went on to shoot 75% the rest of the way (6/8). Slim scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter or overtime, and hit some of the most clutch shots of the game – including the one that finished off this overtime thriller and put the game out of reach. While the credit goes to the former Washington Husky for his stellar turnaround and great performance against one of the league’s elite, there was one man who never stopped believing in him and helped provide him with ample opportunities to help win the game: Edwards.
Jaden McDaniels was 3 for 12 from the field through the first three quarters. But in the fourth and overtime he made 5 of his 6 shots.— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) November 7, 2023
Anthony Edwards was asked if he wanted to keep feeding McDaniels:
"Yeah because when I start off cold they keep feeding me, so it shouldn't… pic.twitter.com/STgZrgVAnt
Edwards said after the game in regards to his active choice to keep getting McDaniels involved:
“Yeah because when I start off cold they keep feeding me, so it shouldn’t change with him. He’s one of the best players on the team.”
This is something that leaders do for their teammates. The young star could have lost trust in his teammate and understandably stopped passing him the ball as much. Instead, he instilled confidence as he knew that McDaniels would be needed on the offensive and defensive ends if the Timberwolves were going to pull out a win. Edwards was dead right about that.
Leadership is an interesting concept when it comes to sports. Through my experience playing and watching basketball, along with many other sports, it seems that leadership on a team in terms of its players are reserved for two kinds of members: The veterans and the stars of any given team.
Usually, these two categories intertwine to create the captains of a squad; that begs the question — what happens when your best player is barely 22-years-old, 14 years younger than the team’s most well-respected veteran, Mike Conley?
For most, that would be something that would need to be addressed. While Edwards has had no shortage of veteran leadership in his short time in the league (Ricky Rubio, Patrick Beverley and Conley, to just name a few), he has an innate ability to bring people together and lift them up even when they are at their lowest. We have seen this time and time again throughout his career and it is easy to predict that he will continue to do that as he grows and matures as a player and person. That is a rare trait for anyone to have, let alone someone who is barely of legal drinking age. And yet, the young superstar has shown that this is no flash in the pan. Anthony Edwards and his positive support are here to stay.
“Jaden McDaniels was the reason we won the game tonight” - Anthony Edwards pic.twitter.com/j7EqA8AP4V— The Daily Wolves (@TheDailyWolves) November 7, 2023
We are all incredibly lucky to get the opportunity to see Edwards’ ascent to the top ranks of the NBA representing our favorite team, but we are almost more lucky to see his ability to share that spotlight with those who help to him to reach that level.
His leadership permeates every room he steps into and positively impacts everyone around him. The fact that those around him have nothing but great things to say about who he is as a person, combined with his ability to bring his best when the stakes demand it, is evidence of that.
The Timberwolves have themselves a gem in the young kid from Atlanta, Ga., and with his attitude there is no ceiling for how far he can take this group. We’re just excited to be along for the ride.