‘He just keeps battling’: Kessler Edwards stepping up to guard NBA’s top players

Kessler Edwards
Kessler Edwards grabs a rebound against the Golden State Warriors in the second quarter at the Chase Center.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

There is something to be said for learning on the job, and Nets rookie Kessler Edwards has been getting a lot of that this season. On Saturday he found himself trying to keep Steph Curry off the board and on Tuesday he’ll see Chris Paul, Devin Booker and the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns.

Edwards’ rise with the Nets this season has been well documented, now having started in 10 consecutive games and appearing in 13 straight contests. His shooting from beyond the arc has become a major asset for the Nets, especially without several of their star players, and he has become a much-needed 3-and-D wing that Brooklyn has benefited from.

“He’s been huge for us, obviously, for a few games right now,” Patty Mills said on Saturday. “We’re asking a lot from him and he’s producing for us. I think it’s our job as vets and my job to be able to help him along the way, and get him prepared as much as we can. For someone that’s been thrown in the fire so to speak, he’s been able to deliver for us, and been a steady defensive player.

“He’s accepted that role and been doing his best. Like I said, I think it’s our job as vets to help him along the way. He’s gonna be huge for us.”

The Pepperdine product finished Saturday’s game with four points on 1-of-4 shooting, but played a big role defensively for the Nets and helped contain Curray and Andrew Wiggins during 32 minutes on the court. In his last 10 starts, Edwards had averaged 8.8 points per game and 4.4 assists.

From beyond the arc, he’s shot 39 percent this season, which has been attributed to his work with Kyle Korver.

“I know there was a lot of doubt with me coming in with my shot,” Edwards told the New York Post recently. “I thought I’d be good with the shot I had. But once they changed (it), once I started hearing different things, I saw that it was working, so I just stuck with it.”

The duel threat as a sharpshooter and defensive stalwart has given Nets head coach Steve Nash something to mull over as some of the team’s injured stars make their way back into the lineup. A lot of Edwards’ opportunities — along with chances for the other rookies — have come because of injuries to the likes of Joe Harris, Kevin Durant, and James Harden just to name a few.

However, Ewdards’ play is sure to give Nash pause once he has to make some tougher lineup decisions.

“He just keeps battling, keeps working, keeps growing,” Nash said. “He’s getting all these great experiences guarding top players. He’s got to have some space to make mistakes so he can continue to develop, but he does so many things well with his size and athleticism, and his discipline. He’s a disciplined player who’s willing to sacrifice for the team.”