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Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards no longer accepting youth as an excuse

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards dribbles the ball against Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl on Dec. 3 during the third quarter at Target Center.
Matt Krohn / USA Today Sports
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Mentioning youth as a form of optimism for the future is fun for a franchise, its young players and its fan base.

But using a lack of age as an excuse can get old. The idea of inexperience being a driving force for inconsistency or a lack of success is only applicable for so long before it wears out its welcome with the masses.

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Which is why, subtly, Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards’ words rang so refreshing Tuesday. Edwards, who turned 21 in August, has used the youth of the team and himself to explain away shortcomings in the past. But not Tuesday. Tuesday’s availability reeked of accountability.

The team recently followed up a five-game winning streak with a three-game losing streak. It then won its first game without all-star center Karl-Anthony Towns — over Memphis — but followed that up with a disappointing home loss against Oklahoma City. The Timberwolves have been nothing if not inconsistent thus far this season.

Asked why, Edwards pointed the finger directly at himself.

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“Just coming out giving us energy, being the same player every night,” Edwards said. “(My teammates) always play the same every night, so it’s up to me. I just got to be the same dominant player every night, and then we’ll string some wins together.”

That comment comes off a two-game stretch in which Edwards did play relatively well. He feels as if he is taking strides toward being a more consistent player, and the results are showing. But that doesn’t stop him from bearing the load of blame.

Because he certainly wasn’t perfect. Edwards was part of Minnesota’s major issue Saturday — the team’s constant war with the officials. Edwards was among those arguing for calls and stacking up technical fouls, something he also recognized. Edwards said the Timberwolves have to cut back on that.

“They’re not fouls,” he said. “I just gotta get back on D, pretty much. If they don’t blow the whistle, it’s not a foul. I gotta get back.”

That’s easier said than done when you feel as though you have a legitimate gripe during the course of a game.

“It’s a tough mindset to have for myself. But it’s not a me game, it’s a team,” Edwards said. “My team needs me to get back, so that’s what I’m gonna do from here on out.”

That’s both accountability and ownership, two things Minnesota needs from its young star. Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said Monday the team has lacked in the leadership department. There have been suggestions that Edwards could take that mantle. That extends beyond trying to be a voice in the locker room. Edwards is also trying to say more things on the court.

He’s watching film and diagnosing what opponents are trying to do. He credited Wolves coaches Joe Boylan and Chris Hines for sending out proper film to help him prep, a resource he’s trying to take advantage of. That’s something he may not have been capable of doing as a rookie. But he feels comfortable and knowledgeable enough in and about the league to take charge.

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Edwards said it’s “100 percent” time to be a leader. That he’s still so young doesn’t matter to him.

“I mean, it’s who I am at the end of the day,” he said. “Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve kinda been that type of guy, so I don’t feel no way about my age.”

He doesn’t feel young, anyway. He joked that his newer driver’s license will be horizontal — a sign he has cleared the 21-year-old threshold.

Anthony Edwards is feeling all grown up.

“I actually feel like a 11-year vet in this thing,” he joked. “Nah, I’m just playin. But nah, I don’t feel young. I’m three years in, but I did come in at 18, pushing 19. So I feel like it’s time for me to step up, for sure.”

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