Edwards: "Playing at the WC changed my perspective about everything"
MINNEAPOLIS (USA) - USA star Anthony Edwards gets straight to the point when asked why his outstanding play and talent have helped his Minnesota Timberwolves become one of the best teams in the NBA this season.
The Timberwolves own the best record in the Western Conference with 30 wins and 11 defeats.
"I think playing in the USA (team), the FIBA World Cup this summer," Edwards said.
"I think that changed my perspective about everything, being able to play with your team, playing within the game and not just try to play isolation ball all day, playing within a system. And Finchy (Minnesota coach Chris Finch) does a great job of making sure I stay within the system."
Anthony Edwards credits playing for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup re: his game’s evolution this season. pic.twitter.com/qGjG3wgKBQ— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) January 19, 2024
Edwards has always been an exceptional talent, a player willing to go hard at any defender.
But basketball is a team game and his approach this season to play within the system is paying off for Minnesota. He's averaging 26.0 points and 5.0 assists per game - both career highs.
Named to the All-Star Five at the World Cup after his dazzling displays, Edwards is likely headed to the NBA All-Star Game and so, too, are Karl Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, a couple of other Timberwolves that played at the World Cup.
While Gobert featured at his third World Cup and has played in numerous games in the French system employed by long-time coach Vincent Collet, Timberwolves star Karl Anthony Towns played big minutes in a major international tournament for the first time and helped the Dominican Republic top Group A before finishing 14th out of the 32 teams.
Tyrese Haliburton played for the USA at the Word Cup
Edwards' USA teammate, Tyrese Haliburton, says the World Cup fueled his hunger to become a better player and to become a winner. And he is clearly playing the best basketball of his life since the beginning of the NBA season (23.6 points and the league-best 12.5 assists per game).
"Still not over it. It's frustrating," Haliburton told The Athletic of the USA's fourth-place finish. "Everybody was mad, of course, but it's like, for me, I haven't won since like my sophomore year in college (at Iowa State). So it's just like really opened my eyes to some real stuff in my life, honestly. It was like, 'I got to change my habits and certain things to be tired of losing.' I'm not a loser, it's not what I do. And I'm not going to let that continue to be what I am.
"So everybody keeps asking, 'What are your individual goals this year?' I just want to win, like, I'm tired of losing. Been frustrating the last couple of years, but I think that USA stuff kind of really opened my eyes. I can't continue to do this in my life."
Earlier this season, Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti explained how playing at the World Cup helped Shai Gilgeous-Alexander become a better player. The Canadian star is also having so far the best season of his career (31.0 points per game, shooting above 55%, 6.3 assists and 5.7 rebounds).
Many stars over the years have cited FIBA ball as making them better players for their NBA teams.
"EUROPEAN BASKETBALL IS MORE TEAM BASKETBALL, MORE TACTICAL" - Luka Doncic
Numerous others have done so over the years, including All-Stars like Luka Doncic of Slovenia, Lauri Markkanen of Finland, Giannis Antetokounmpo of Greece and Nikola Jokic of Serbia.
"European basketball is more team basketball, more tactical," Doncic said after EuroBasket 2022.
Markkanen's play at the same event for Finland was an eye-opener for Jazz head coach Will Hardy, who gained an appreciation for his all-round skill set.
"The number of times that he got the rebound and just pushed it for them," Hardy said. "He showed a comfort level with the ball and I hadn't really seen that with him in the places he had been ... He's not just a catch-and-shoot player. He's not just a screener. He's not just a guy that moves around off ball screens. He does all those things. He's good in transition...
"It's a luxury as a coach for sure to have a guy that you can really try to be creative with."
Jokic improved his game at EuroBasket 2022.
"I think you really need to have quick thinking," he said. "In the NBA, if you go by the guy, you can see the help is coming. In Europe, help is always there. So, you need to think and play ahead."
Jokic played for Serbia at EuroBasket 2022 and led Denver to their first title the following season
For Antetokounmpo, he was just happy that he'd represented his country at the EuroBasket.
"Made me fall in love with basketball again," he said on his Instagram account.
Antetokounmpo represented Greece at FIBA EuroBasket 2022
In the end, star players get different rewards by playing international basketball. What is certain is that the experience benefits them all.