Anthony Edwards was adjusting his hair when a reporter asked him about Alex Rodriguez two years ago. After a loss to the Brooklyn Nets on April 13, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic asked Edwards if he was an A-Rod fan growing up.
“A fan? Who is he?” Edwards replied sheepishly.
“The baseball player, Alex Rodriguez,” Krawczysnski clarified.
“Nah, I don’t know who that is,” he replied, voice trailing at the end. “I know that he’s gonna be the owner, but I don’t know nothing about baseball.”
It was an honest answer from Edwards. Growing up in Georgia, he was a baseball star but didn’t follow the sport closely. Rodriguez played 22 years in the majors. He made 14 All-Star teams, won three MVPs, and the World Series in 2009. But he retired in 2016 at age 40 when Edwards was in high school.
But Edwards is familiar with Rodriguez now. He’s dapped him up after games and was sitting next to Rodriguez courtside in Miami for Game 3 of the Boston Celtics-Miami Heat series. The Heat won 128-102, taking a 3-0 series lead. Rodriguez wore a grey zip-up, Edwards an Atlanta Braves cap and a red hoodie. Both were watching Jimmy Butler and Miami’s gang of undrafted and overlooked players dismantle the loaded Celtics.
Rodriguez and Edwards’ shared moment is a good sign for the organization. Rodriguez and the Wolves’ new ownership group need to keep Edwards content in Minnesota if they’re going to build a winner here. Edwards needs ownership and management to surround him with the right people. So far, he seems satisfied. “The Timberwolves did a great job this summer of putting the right people around me,” he said after Minnesota’s Game 4 win over Denver. “Also, my trainer back home, Pierre Jordan, he was working me, and it’s just showing. I’m thankful, and I’m going to continue to work.”
He also gave Chris Finch a ringing endorsement after Minnesota’s only postseason win.
Finchy does a great job of just putting us in the right positions to be successful. He’s a great coach. He’s offensive-minded, and like I said, he’s great. It’s all Finchy. It’s not us; it’s Finchy. You can tell he watches film. He definitely sits down and watches film with me to show me, like, I can attack and get more aggressive with them two on the floor. So, all credit to him.
But Edwards was upset with how the season ended. He stared into his locker room mirror for a long time after Minnesota’s Game 3 loss to Denver and left without talking to the media. Edwards typically stays silent when he’s most upset to avoid making headlines in the morning. After Game 4, he admitted that he couldn’t bear the thought of another team sweeping him. When he missed a game-tying three at the end of Game 5, he immediately ran through the tunnel and exited the arena.
In an ideal world, Rodriguez and Edwards build a rapport through their off-court interactions. Edwards trusts that ownership will support the team; Rodriguez relays Edwards’ concerns to Marc Lore and the other owners. But there’s an underlying concern with both parties. Minnesota basketball fans need to trust that Lore and Rodriguez will keep the team in Minneapolis. They also need to believe that they will keep Edwards from leering at other big-market franchises.
Anthony Edwards is in a smaller market and still needs to make that final leap. So he might have to complete his rise to potential superstardom with a different team. Minnesota is a historically troubled franchise, plus living there with the cold weather is also a downside that will not attract free agents. But again, Ant has potential, and I believe his charisma is appealing to younger fans.
It’s one opinion from a player who played 33 games for Minnesota in the 2015-16 season. But Rudež is expressing a latent fear many Timberwolves fans have. The Wolves can contend if they build the right team around him. However, Lore and Rodriguez made a splash hire with Tim Connelly and then checked off on a blockbuster trade for Rudy Gobert. At his exit interview, Connelly said they traded for Gobert partially to keep a competitive team around Edwards.
That makes sense in the abstract. Good young players build bad habits in losing environments. But the Wolves felt Karl-Anthony Towns was their best player at the time and traded for a defense-first, rebounding big to complement his offensive skills. When all three players played together last year, Towns and Gobert occasionally clogged Edwards’ scoring lanes. It’s something they’re going to have to solve apace, and with few other options if it doesn’t work out.
There is some irony in Rodriguez and Edwards watching Butler lead his underdog Heat team to a 3-0 lead over the Celtics. Miami is an 8-seed, and ESPN gave them a 3 percent chance of winning the Boston series. Yet, they are on the doorstep of winning a championship. Butler forced his way out of Minnesota because he couldn’t win. He bowed out of the Philadelphia 76ers’ process and thrived in the avowed Heat culture.
Rodriguez and Edwards were probably just having fun watching a game courtside. But Rodriguez and ownership should think about how they replicate what the Heat have. How Miami empowers a coach to develop as Eric Spolstra has. If the Wolves have the proper scouting and player development staff to find the next Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, or Duncan Robinson. And what they need to do to ensure Edwards finishes his career in Minnesota. It all starts with a personal connection, a friendship between a budding star and a Hall of Famer he didn’t recognize two years ago.