Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch has long held the belief that Anthony Edwards can be a franchise player – and the top pick in the 2020 draft is now showing it.
Edwards just played a starring role in the two most important games of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ season, just a week or so after dropping a career-high 49 points against the San Antonio Spurs.
The Timberwolves beat the LA Clippers in the Play-In Tournament to secure the No 7 seed and have now stolen a game on the road to make the ideal start to the first-round NBA Playoffs series against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Edwards scored 30 points against the Clippers, important given that Karl-Anthony Towns struggled to score in the first half and got in foul trouble, and on Saturday scored 36 points in his postseason debut in Memphis.
Finch, speaking exclusively to Sky Sports, believes Edwards can go right to the top.
“We think Anthony can be a franchise-level player, for sure,” Finch said. “He has a lot of, and he’s been doing a lot of things that are only boxes that are checked by these types of MVP-calibre players.
“He’s just a really young player, he’s very raw, so he has to also form all the habits that help support it: how you take care of your body, or how you eat, how you sleep, and all those things. We talked a lot about developing players on the floor, but the work that they do to become professionals off the floor is just as important more often than not. That’s what allows these guys to play at such a high level into their mid-thirties, developing the right habits.”
Speaking to reporters after Saturday’s victory at FedExForum, Finch said: “Ant’s in a real, great groove right now. Everything he’s doing is really definitive, he’s being sharp, he’s getting into his stuff quick, he’s making the right reads more often than not and he’s really confident in his shot.
“We love what he’s doing out there. He just finds a way to get the offensive stick back at the end of shot clock, which was huge, you had the corner three, the little flash to the [basket]… we need those little filler points in our offense. He just finds them, which is invaluable to us.
“Sometimes his concentration comes and goes a little during the regular season, but we’ve always talked about his sense of moment, sense of timing to raise his game, and maybe that’s what we’re seeing.”
Towns bounced back from struggling against the Clippers to deliver a superb performance with 29 points and 13 rebounds, shooting over 60 per cent from the field against the Grizzlies.
Finch had no concerns that Minnesota’s other No 1 draft pick (Towns was taken first in 2015) would be able to respond.
“He’s a great player that’s what enabled him to deliver the performance,” Finch said. “I wasn’t worried at all about KAT’s ability to bounce back and perform at an All-NBA level. He’s a franchise star.
“There haven’t been many nights like he had Tuesday, it wasn’t like it’s some sort of pattern or anything like this. He came out with a mindset to be super-aggressive. I really love the way he really rebounded, how he controlled the paint defensively.”
The Timberwolves head coach has genuine belief that Towns can be the next transcendent big in a league currently being dominated by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic.
“I’m very proud of him in his season,” Finch told Sky Sports NBA. “He’s such a great young man, like he’s happy most about our team’s great run and play. He will, at some point, be in the MVP conversation down the road, I’m confident.
“He’s only 26, he’s really young, still learning and growing. But he’s had a couple of really tough years, whether it be injury, team dysfunction, obviously losing his mother to Covid and other family members and to be able to consistently get back to the level that he was at when his career was kind of derailed a little bit seemingly.
“It just means a lot, because, you know, he’s a great player, and he had seen his contemporaries, you know, Embiid and Jokic and these guys only going upward without the same adversity. So, I’m very, very, very pleased and proud of what he’s been able to do this season and he’s done it in a manner where his maturity is showing, he’s allowing the game to come to him.”
Finch, who was recently rewarded for doubling Minnesota’s win total from last season with a new multi-year contract earlier this month, has big ambitions and believes his team can become a genuine championship contender.
“I’d like to think that we can build ourselves into a top Western Conference team,” he added. “We’re not there yet. We’re learning now what meaningful basketball feels like every night, that that in itself is extremely important. [Getting to the playoffs is] one of the best accelerants to development, for a team and a team’s personality. Every flaw you have will get exposed in the playoffs.
“Those are just steps that you have to go through, it’s just part of the learning curve of all these teams. We have a lot of young players that have yet to hit their prime. That’s exciting – and we have MVP-calibre talent in Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards, so we’ve got to try to maximise these these next five years.
“Our young players have to still keep learning and building and developing. In a team like ours, and in a market like ours, internal growth, player development is the number one thing that’s going to take us anywhere – more than any other individual acquisition or signing or move that we could make.
“Nobody has everything they want on their roster – but we do have good young talent. If we can maximise our internal opportunities, then I think we can [become a contender], particularly as some of these teams in the West get older. In four or five years, [the superstars will be retired or on] downsides of their careers, and these teams will look very different. So that’s our window of opportunity.”
Pedro Porro speaks about Tottenham for first time as flight and medical booked
Standard Sport understands the right-back will complete a £39million move from Sporting later on Tuesday, the final day of the January transfer window.
The move was thrown into doubt on Monday after Sporting reneged on the deal by asking for more money, despite Porro having said his goodbyes and with a medical in London booked.
Further talks have revived the transfer and Porro, who was absent from training and understood to be distraught by the hold ups, will now finalise the move on Deadline Day. He spoke to reporters at Lisbon airport on Monday evening.
He told CMTV: “I’m grateful to Sporting, I love the club.
“I didn’t train as I was only focused on the transfer to Spurs but I will always be thankful to the club.”
Porro is expected at Hotspur Way on Monday evening, where he will stay overnight before becoming a Spurs player on Tuesday.
Derby 0 – 2 West Ham
West Ham booked a fifth-round FA Cup tie at boss David Moyes’ former club
Manchester United with a comfortable 2-0 win at Derby.
Jarrod Bowen’s third goal in two games gave the Hammers a first-half lead and Michail Antonio headed home their second five minutes after break.
The Londoners made it back-to-back wins after beating Everton 2-0 to climb out of the Premier League’s bottom three nine days go and rarely needed to hit top gear as they halted League One side Derby’s 19-game unbeaten run.
West Ham boss Moyes now faces a reunion with former side Man Utd at Old Trafford in the last 16 after being drawn to face the Red Devils in the draw just before Monday night’s routine win at Pride Park. The match will take place in the week commencing February 27.
How West Ham eased past Derby
Paul Warne’s side are flying high in fourth place in the third tier and there were high hopes of an upset among the home faithful before kick-off in a Pride Park crowd of 25,308.
Derby forward Tom Barkhuizen wasted no time in breaching West Ham’s defence, scampering clear in the opening minute before his cut-back was scrambled clear.
Bowen shot tamely at Derby goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith soon after, but was not so wasteful in the 10th minute.
Antonio’s ball over the top caught Derby flat-footed and Bowen volleyed home Tomas Soucek’s neat headed pass from six yards.
Derby’s best move of the half saw James Collins volley just off target after Barkhuizen had run on to Craig Forsyth’s dinked pass to pick out the Derby striker with a fine cross.
Barkhuizen and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing offered Derby’s best hopes of getting back on level terms before the break, but they had no shots on target in the first period.
The good news for Rams fans at the break was their side were still in the tie against a top-flight side who were not at their best.
But five minutes into the second period the home side fell 2-0 behind. Derby skipper Curtis Davies’ sliced clearance span into Bowen’s path down the right and his cross was headed in at the far post by Antonio after deflecting off Forsyth.
Warne sent on four substitutes – Eiran Cashin, Liam Thompson, Lewis Dobbin and Tony Springett – soon after and their fresh legs gave Derby a lift.
Haydon Roberts was an inch away from connecting fully with Dobbin’s excellent cross, but the Rams were soon back-pedalling again.
Bowen was denied in quick succession by Wildsmith’s point-blank save and Cashin’s last-ditch tackle before Ben Johnson’s angled drive was kept out by the Derby goalkeeper.
The Rams were full of endeavour until the final whistle and Dobbin was close to being rewarded for an impressive cameo display when shooting straight at Alphonse Areola, but on the night County could not bridge the gulf in class.
Bowen: You’ve got to beat the best to win the cup
Jarrod Bowen said “to be the best you’ve got to beat the best” after West Ham were drawn to face United in the fifth round.
“I found out (about the draw) on the bench. We’ve got Man Utd away so listen it’s never easy and if we want to be successful in these competitions we’ve got to beat the best teams,” Bowen told ITV Sport.
“With respect to Man United they’re a top top team but we’ve been there plenty of times before and you’ve got to beat the best to be the best.”
Bowen added: “It was nice to score against Everton and tonight as well. I think the situation that we’re in, any sort of confidence from any player…
“The last two to be involved with was very good for me but I think for us, two wins on the bounce as well, two good results for us and it’s all about momentum in this game and I think we can use this going forward.”
Warne: We can’t knock the lads
Derby manager Paul Warne told ITV Sport: “In fairness West Ham played a professional performance, at times I thought we went toe-to-toe but I don’t think we did enough to score unfortunately.
“We can’t knock the lads tonight, we asked them to be the best versions of themselves against a Premier League team so not bad.
“But we probably didn’t have enough graft in the final third but I can’t really knock them and we know West Ham haven’t got an easy draw next but I wish them a sincere good luck.
“I thought the lads gave a good account of themselves at times and at times they were punching.”
Derby return to League One action on Saturday at home to Morecambe – kick-off 3pm – before travelling to Wycombe on Saturday February 11; kick-off 3pm.
West Ham’s next game is away to Newcastle in the Premier League on Saturday, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 5.30pm.
The Hammers then host London rivals Chelsea on Saturday February 11; kick-off 12.30pm.
NFL’s ratio of Black QBs to Black head coaches is all wrong
Marlin Briscoe is smiling in heaven. Doug Williams probably has a huge grin on his face. The first Black starting quarterback in NFL history — Briscoe — and the first Black quarterback to start and win Super Bowl MVP — Williams — are the giants whose shoulders Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts are standing on. And between Rihanna’s halftime performance and the fact that we’re about to watch history made as two Black quarterbacks take center stage in sports’ biggest game — you could make the case that it’s destiny, given that it will all take place during Black History Month.
But, don’t let this moment distract you from the fact that Black coaches are still getting a raw deal at a time in which Black quarterbacks are being elevated like never before. Two things can be true at once, this is why this moment is such a joyous, yet infuriating one.
Sixteen years after we watched Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy make history as the first two Black head coaches to appear in the Super Bowl, we’re watching Mahomes and Hurts do it for Black quarterbacks. But since that February day in 2007, things for Black coaches have seemed to fall apart as they’ve improved for Black quarterbacks.
Eleven Black quarterbacks started Week 1. Now compare that to the three Black coaches who had jobs when the season began — Mike McDaniel doesn’t count, as he chooses to identify as a human being with a Black dad.
When Lovie Smith got fired in Houston, three became two. And as we wait for the remaining hires to be made, there isn’t a track record or feeling that anything will be done in the next few weeks to greatly improve these dismal numbers. We’re at a point in which the league, the owners, and fans are fine with having a Black man be their quarterback — but not their coach.
Over the years, the trajectory for Black quarterbacks has steadily risen in a way that hasn’t happened for Black coaches. By the time we reach kickoff, it will mean that eight Black quarterbacks have started in the Super Bowl. It’s a direct result of evolution over the years. What was started by Fritz Pollard, Briscoe, and Williams led the way for Michael Vick to be the first Black quarterback drafted No. 1 and for Steve McNair to be the first Black quarterback to win MVP — which was followed by Mahomes and Lamar Jackson.
Progress on the field, not on the sidelines
This type of progress isn’t something we’ve seen with Black coaches, though. At roughly this point last year, there were only two Black head coaches in the league — Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh and David Culley in Houston. As we know, Culley would get fired after one season by the Texans and would get replaced by Smith, another Black coach that would be fired after a lone year on the job. Brian Flores’ class-action lawsuit (which was joined by Ray Horton and Steve Wilks) is still hovering over the league. But, you wouldn’t know it the way that Wilks wasn’t able to keep his interim tag — which is a death sentence for Black coaches — with the Carolina Panthers despite doing a wonderful job.
In 2000, Dennis Green (Minnesota) and Dungy (Tampa) were the only two Black full-time head coaches in the NFL. Twenty-three years later, we’re in the same place, but worse. The XFL is just weeks away from rebooting and their eight-team league already has four Black head coaches. It’s a jarring stat that embodies just how big this problem is, despite what Todd Bowles thinks.
“I think the minute you guys stop making a big deal about it, everybody else will as well,” one of the two Black coaches in the league had the audacity to say earlier in the season.
In less than two weeks, a league that’s majority Black will make history when two Black quarterbacks play in a game that will feature entertainment before the game and during halftime from Black performers in a month that’s dedicated to recognizing the contributions to what Black people have made to this country. It will be a joyous occasion.
However, while you’re enjoying the game, I beg of you to ask one question to the company you’ll keep on that day. “If the NFL, America and the world can accept all this Blackness, then why won’t they accept Black coaches?” And while you’re waiting for people to answer that question, realize that “End Racism” was etched on the field all season.
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