Postgame presser with Towns showed how Edwards has grown as a leader

PHOENIX – After the Timberwolves swept their playoff series against the Suns, fans got a little glimpse into the leadership style of Anthony Edwards.

Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns did their postgame interview together at a small table near the locker room, and Towns was asked a question about how he navigated this series, then came up with his best performance in Game 4, a 122-116 victory, with 28 points and 10 rebounds.

Edwards instead answered the question and said Towns played so well on Sunday night because he finally didn't get in foul trouble, something Edwards had been pleading with him to stop doing.

"Let me just say, tonight he wasn't in foul trouble," Edwards said. "The first three games … he just kept fouling. What did I tell you last game?"

Towns answered: "Find a way not to foul them."

Then Edwards continued his point.

"If you watch the game, every time in the third quarter when we would grow a lead, it's because he's in the game. They don't have a matchup for him. I'm like,'KAT, we not going to win Game 4 if you keep fouling.' We just got to keep him from getting in foul trouble and he's gonna be great every night."

The moment was a candid snapshot of how Edwards can be around teammates and how the Wolves can communicate with each other — direct and without mincing words. Edwards isn't afraid to tell Towns what he might not want to hear but needs to hear. Edwards has been using his voice in more ways to assert his leadership on this Wolves team at 22.

"It's been incredible," center Rudy Gobert said. "I've watched him grow, watched him learn and evolve as a leader, as a player, as a man, too.

Added assistant Micah Nori: "One thing about Ant, he's become more of a vocal leader. But he's also one of those guys that he puts in the work, so guys see him working. He's got some self humor — you've seen all of his interviews — he's the first one to congratulate and move all of his glory or whatever over to his teammates."

The Wolves are in the position they are because of Edwards' budding leadership and also because of the relationship between him and Towns.

Towns came into the franchise in 2015 as the next superstar, and over the past few seasons, he has made room for Edwards to take the spotlight. That was certainly the case in this series, whether by choice or by foul trouble for Towns.

"It's all worth it when you're getting wins in the playoffs," Towns said. "Ant is special, Rudy [Gobert] is special, this team is special. Whatever it takes to win, it's worth doing. I'm willing to sacrifice. Willing to do whatever it takes. I've done it my whole career."

Edwards — who had 40 points, nine rebounds and six assists in Game 4 — couldn't help but smile and reveal what he was thinking as Towns delivered the answer.

"He had 28 and 10, he ain't sacrificing," Edwards said. "When he's not in foul trouble, he's not sacrificing."

Towns couldn't help but laugh. The NBA thrives on drama, the interpersonal drama among players and the kind of internal drama that makes for juicy headlines. For instance, the buzzer had barely sounded before reports of internal strife with the Suns began popping up. Entering the season, the NBA wondered if Towns and Edwards could keep getting along. Would Towns' ego make room for Edwards, who was on his way to becoming a perennial All-Star? Would he be OK if Edwards was the one with the ball in his hands late in games?

The answer so far has been a resounding yes. The two have been able to coexist in this dynamic, where Edwards garners a lot of the headlines and attention for his play.

Towns has been recognized for his work away from the court during his career. On Monday, he was announced as a finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award, which honors an NBA player for pursuing social justice and upholding the league's values of equality, respect and inclusion.

Edwards has bristled in the past at the idea that there was some sort of animosity between him and Towns. He prides himself on getting along with all teammates. If their postgame media session was any indication, their relationship seems to be a healthy one, one where Edwards can be open and honest with Towns for the betterment of himself and the team.

Before the season, Edwards said Towns could be the MVP of the team, and he has always doled out praise for Towns whenever he can, even when telling him what he was doing wrong as well.

"He's a mismatch problem, every team that we play," Edwards said. "Pretty much that week of [practice] we was just figuring out how to get KAT involved in the game. We did a great job of that throughout the series."