MINNEAPOLIS -- Karl-Anthony Towns is not used to watching. The all-star center’s first missed games in seemingly forever came last season when he sat out two games after sustaining a concussion in a car crash.
He missed two more games this week as the result of a suspension incurred for scuffling with Philadelphia center Joel Embiid.
Towns insists he hasn’t thought much about the incident since it occurred, noting it’s a thing of the past. But he did note that he’s always “going to defend myself.”
“I ain’t going to take nothing,” Towns said. “(Embiid is) a very … talented player. I just had to defend myself in that situation.”
The entire Timberwolves organization has backed its star player up on that.
“I think he did what he thought was necessary as far as … somebody was pushing him, so he pushed back,” forward Jordan Bell said. “That’s the way my mom told me. Somebody hits you, you hit their (butt) back. So I think my mom would be proud of what he did. You can’t just walk around and let people bully you.”
But that’s all in the Wolves’ past now. Minnesota was glad to go 1-1 in Towns’ absence, but even more happy to have its big man back.
Bell noted that, outside of the games, Towns was with the Wolves “the whole time.” But the big man still had some added free time.
To pass it, Towns played plenty of Call of Duty, nursed a couple of unspecified injuries, tried Popeye’s new chicken sandwich (he still thinks Chick-fil-A reigns supreme) and dissected his own team’s play.
While watching from the team hotel as the Wolves devoured the Wizards on Saturday, Towns wrote up a scouting report that coach Ryan Saunders said was “pretty on par” with what he saw. Then, of course, Towns watched as Minnesota was blasted by the Bucks in the second half of Monday’s loss.
Nobody likes to get blown out, but Towns spun the loss as a positive.
“That’s good that we had something like that,” he said. “Everyone wants to look at it as a loss, and I look at it as a great learning opportunity for us to look at in ways that we can see how different people are going to approach us when we play.”
Towns saw a few areas in which the Wolves can improve. He saw the Bucks, primarily reigning Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo, attack Minnesota’s defense with straight-line drives that caused the help defense to suck in from the corners, which gave Milwaukee open three-point shots. Towns thinks Minnesota’s help defenders should simply stunt in to fake help, then retreat out to shooters.
On offense, Towns saw Minnesota lose its pace at times. That’s not to say the Wolves didn’t sprint up and down the court, but Towns doesn’t think that’s necessarily what matters.
“It’s actually when we’re in our half-court sets, really moving in that set, handoffs, pass ahead, chase, whatever it may be, everyone has to run to their spots,” Towns said. “When we run into our spots and we do the play with the intention of scoring and with intensity and energy, it usually works out really well for us. And the times we don’t, we put ourselves in a deficit because now we’re playing more into (the defense’s) hands.”
Towns closely analyzed Minnesota during his suspension because that was the best way he could improve himself, while also preparing himself to again lead on the court when he returns to action.
He returns to a team that just put its depth on display for all to see. Bell, Gorgui Dieng, Noah Vonleh and others stepped up in Towns’ absence.
“We have a lot of depth, and we have guys that are going to fight every moment,” Towns said. “(Monday) obviously wasn’t a game that we wanted to let get away. But what I saw was our guys fighting every single moment, especially in the first half, against a team that’s going to be highly regarded in the NBA for possibly winning a championship. We did a lot of great things, and we’ve gotta continue taking steps in the right direction if we want to be that team.”
Getting its star center back should certainly help, too.