ANTHONY EDWARDS AND Rudy Gobert, the two players left in the dressing room of the FedEx Forum, have just struck up a conversation. It’s November 11th, and the Minnesota Timberwolves just suffered their sixth loss in seven games. They’ll be on the road tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies, a team that ended the Wolves’ second playoff streak in 18 years last season.

The duo are busy debating the nuances of a specific defensive covering, a trade initiated by the 21-year-old star shooting guard for a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, to whom new team president Tim Connelly traded three rotation players and a reserve. selecting a project in Utah Jazz to purchase.

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It’s a simple strategy conversation between new teammates, but also a sign of progress. For these Timberwolves, any semblance of building chemistry – any indication that less glamorous aspects of the game are being prioritized – is reassuring.

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The Timberwolves, 7-8, spent the first month of the season inconsistently running one of the most scrutinized roster experiments in the league: teaming up two All-Star big men and watching Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns compete for a partnership.

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“Everything’s in the paint,” Edwards said after losing to the Phoenix Suns on November 1, when asked why one of the league’s most explosive finishers didn’t dunk in the first eight games of the season. Early returns weren’t “all peaches and cream,” to borrow another phrase that Edwards used back then.

But for all the attention to Gobert-Towns’ fit, the spotlight has also often shifted towards Edwards. The ultimate face of the franchise has gone viral several times, seemingly uninterested — in stark contrast to the infectious energy Edwards showed off last season — as he and the Timberwolves navigate the challenges of creating a rival.

“It’s the little things,” Edwards said after losing to the Jazz on October 21. “We have to find out. I’m going to find out.”

EDWARDS RAISES EYEBROWS after this loss to the Jazz, mentioning that “the smaller we are, the better for me”, in response to a question about his staging during a break when the Wolves went with a smaller lineup.

He then smiled as he was asked an additional question about the fight with Gobert, perhaps realizing that he was being too forthcoming. A few days later, aware of the conversation he had instigated, he politely asked reporters not to ask his opinion on specific formulations.

But Edwards is not alone in expressing concern about the distance between the Timberwolves. So is point guard D’Angelo Russell, whose scoring average (14.2 points per game) is the lowest since he was a rookie teenager.

“That’s our main offense that we’re trying to figure out,” Russell told Sportzshala after the Memphis loss. “Obviously you see us bumping into each other, trying to get through the back door and we might run into a guy. It’s just little things like that that are out of sync right now. It’s hard to find a rhythm or flow.”

The Wolves played terrible offensively with Gobert on the floor (106.6 points per 100 possessions, which translates to 28th in the league) and poorly defended when he was not (113.2). Their starting line-up (Russell, Edwards, Towns, Gobert and forward Jayden McDaniels) has a negative net rating (-0.8 points per 100 possessions) in 198 minutes combined, a statistic that improved dramatically after losing Wednesday 126-108 to the outnumbered the Orlando Magic team. .

“We either understand it or we don’t. It’s simple,” Russell said. “We either come up with it, take it and be consistent with it, or we don’t. And then we’ll be where we are next year.”

Minnesota coach Chris Finch said he has “high hopes” for the chemistry he has seen developing between Towns and Gobert. He called Towns’ passes to Gobert (25) a particularly encouraging sign. But that’s more than the total passes to Gobert from Wolverhampton’s starting backs; and Towns’ scoring (21.9 ppg) is the lowest in five seasons, although his assists (5.2) are the best of his career.

“He did such a good job of trying to make changes and sacrifices in his offensive game, but he probably overdid it a bit,” Finch said of Towns. “I think he grew up just going back to being a little more normal.”

One opposing head coach told Sportzshala that he believes that while Finch, who is considered a particularly creative offensive mind, will find ways to make two big intervals work, he believes the Wolves’ biggest problems are “interpersonal.”

The coach cited that Edwards sulked when his team used defensive changes, causing the Wolves to often go to the Towns in an attempt to attack the quarterback’s inconsistency. The clip went viral Edwards stands with his hands on his hips for all the ball possession while the Wolves had a game that was not in demand for him during their November 5 victory over the Houston Rockets.

“I don’t have Twitter, so I don’t pay attention to it. I’m always busy man,” Edwards said of the moment. “I’m ready for it if it happens to me. I just want to play basketball.”

Edwards admitted that he was not ready to start the season, reporting in training camp that he was “too heavy”. The Timberwolves listed him at 239 pounds on the official list. (The NBA requires teams to report actual height, but leeway with weight is allowed, and it’s usually reserved for stars who may have gained extra pounds.)

Edwards attributed the weight gain to “a lot of weight lifting” and said he shed the extra pounds during camp, dropping to 230. However, Towns decided to publicly urge Edwards on his diet and fitness at the start of the season.

“I know you all think it’s funny here when he talks about Popeye and all that shit.” Towns told reporters about this after the defeat at the end of October.comments that could be taken as an attempt at leadership or another reason to think about Wolves’ chemistry.

“I’m not happy to hear it. We are high-level athletes.”

Edwards replied two days later with several workout clips.

While Timberwolves needs more offense from Edwards to become a real threat in the Western Conference – he averages 21.9 points and 3.9 assists per game but has room to grow offensively, especially as a decision maker – he is also pushed to execute something that coaches and teammates consider huge defensive potential.

“Your path to being an All-Star or an NBA All-Star in this league is to be the high-level player, the two-way player that you can be,” Finch said of Edwards. “Paul George or Kawai [Leonard].”

Gobert, for his part, has urged Edwards to be the best cornerback in the NBA and sees no excuse for Edwards not to be part of the conversation given his height, strength and explosiveness. According to Gobert, the missing ingredient is concentration.

“He showed me that he can be an all-rounder if he puts his best effort into it,” Gobert said. “I was on his ass a little because of the ball [defense]. He is very competitive. He’s probably one of the best ball defenders I’ve ever seen when he takes it to heart and guards a really good player.

“But being great defensively is consistency. He does it every minute.”

Edwards welcomes the challenge, but said he “needs to get in better shape” to be able to consistently play both ends of the court.

That’s not to say that Edwards’ occasional defensive thoughts or lack of defensive effort make him an exception to the Minnesota roster.

Towns’ defensive shortcomings were one of the main reasons the Wolves wanted to bring him to the fore and pair him with a dominant under-the-rim defender in Gobert. Russell has a reputation for being a poor defensive end and was sent to the bench after losing to the Grizzlies last week after his mistakes were made by a couple of alleys, in the second of which Finch threw his hands up before signaling for a substitution. .

Edwards put it more succinctly after losing to the New York Knicks last week: “We’re just playing soft, man.” He said the criticism included himself.

Yes, solving the Gobert Towns puzzle will raise the bar for the franchise, which is looking for consecutive playoff berths for the first time since the 2003-04 season. But raise the Minnesota ceiling? This will only happen when Edwards becomes a two-sided superstar.

“I still think it’s a good team,” Finch said. “We just haven’t earned the right to be good.”

Meanwhile, Gobert reminds the Wolves to focus on the small things, and “big things will come.”

“Most people watching the game won’t even see [them]Gobert said. “That is the difference between us and victory and defeat. I’m talking about running back, distance between teammates, communication, physical fitness, boxing out and things like that.

“Only what the winning teams are doing, but we’re not doing it consistently yet.”