Anthony Edwards reveals Tom Crean’s pregame message that sparked heroics against Mavericks

When a young star faces suffocating pressure to save his team from playoff elimination, he may need a calming, reassuring voice in his ear. For Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves, he was one of the people who helped him prepare for the NBA.

Former Georgia basketball head coach Tom Crean texted the two-time All-Star before and during halftime of Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday with some simple but effective advice: “play with joy,” according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Edwards looked much looser and upbeat during Minnesota’s 105-100 win over the Dallas Mavericks.

He was a little too loose at times, committing six turnovers, but Edwards gave his team the boost it needed with a near triple-double consisting of 29 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists at the American Airlines Center. He trusted his teammates (Karl-Anthony Towns added 25 points and made a few 3-pointers) and took on the role of best player when necessary.

And the outspoken 22-year-old really had fun on the court, barking like a dog and making the Timberwolves accelerate from the sidelines. Edwards’ energy can be as powerful as his supreme talent, and in Game 4, his enthusiasm seemed contagious.

With the No. 3 seed in the West now returning to Target Center for Thursday night’s Game 5, it appears fans partly have Tom Crean to thank for their team not being swept in this series .

Anthony Edwards needs to be both excited and controlled for the Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (5) reacts to Dallas Mavericks forward PJ Washington (25) during the second half in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals of the 2024 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center .
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Crean had a miserable tenure at Georgia, amassing a terrible 47-75 record in four seasons (2018-22). Anthony Edwards, however, was a ray of light in the midst of the darkness. Despite not reaching the NCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs saw their freshman become the first and only No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Edwards’ decision to stay in his home state instead of representing blue bloods like Kentucky, Kansas or North Carolina has baffled many, but he has clearly gained some wisdom during his year at Athens. Although his enormous potential was evident to scouts and fans, there was concern that the SEC Rookie of the Year would struggle to develop the discipline necessary to reach the top of his profession.

Edwards improved his shot selection and harnessed his emotions, becoming one of the fastest-growing players in the NBA today. A slew of individual accolades and more playoff success seems like a safe prediction for the future, provided he remembers what helped him get to this point in the first place.

Embodying the joy Crean mentions is important, but Edwards shouldn’t get caught up in his passion either. Mastering the balance between playing with emotion and maintaining composure is essential for him and the Timberwolves. It worked in Game 4 and will need to be on full display in Game 5 if Minnesota wants to have a legitimate chance at history.

Will this newfound joy be enough to prevent the Reaper from tearing away the soul of this championship-starved franchise?