Just last Tuesday, Karl-Anthony Towns was making the same jokes even some Minnesota Timberwolves fans were spouting off on social media.
“I was like, ‘Man, it’s been a real quiet offseason for Minnesota. It’s very different,’ ” Towns recalled.
Everyone was thinking it. You could point around the NBA at other less-than-ideal situations, from Ben Simmons wanting out of Philadelphia to vaccine hesitancy among certain key players (including former Timberwolves wing Andrew Wiggins) and the Timberwolves looked downright stable.
And then, well …
“Boom,” Towns said. “I made sure to have one left in the hat.”
Gersson Rosas’ firing as the team’s president of basketball operations is just the latest bomb to drop on the Timberwolves during Towns’ tenure.
The Timberwolves’ all-star center reminisced for a bit to start his Media Day press conference Monday, just ahead of his seventh NBA training camp. He pointed to a spot at the team’s practice facility, noting that was where he had taken photos with Kevin Garnett for a Sports Illustrated cover ahead of his rookie season.
Garnett told him early in Towns’ career that “you blink, and you’re going to be seven years in. You blink again, you’re going to be thinking about retirement.”
Well, Towns is heading into Year 7.
“So I was like, ‘I don’t want to be blinking that much,’ ” Towns said. “I’m happy to be here. I’m grateful. I’m grateful for just having this opportunity to be in the NBA and be playing for this franchise for so long. It’s just a blessing. I don’t want to ever take that for granted.”
Regardless of how often this franchise has tested his loyalty and patience. Last week was just the latest example. The only constant in Towns’ NBA career to this point has been change.
“At the end of the day, I have to continue being a professional,” he said. “Being transparent, what happened last week, just add it to the list. It’s just the same thing every single time. It’s something that always leads to instability.”
At the ripe age of 25, Towns doesn’t feel as though there is anything he hasn’t seen. He has been through the ringer, from the death of Flip Saunders — which came just months after Saunders drafted Towns and days before the start of the center’s rookie season — to numerous front office overhauls to ever-changing rosters.
Towns had a great veteran in Garnett, but Garnett retired just one season into their partnership. Towns and Zach LaVine built a strong friendship, but LaVine was traded after the two spent only two seasons together.
Then there were other, less cohesive relationships. Jimmy Butler certainly comes to mind.
And those are all just on the court. Then you think about the last year and a half, when Towns lost his mother to COVID-19 and had an intense battle with the virus himself, and things never seem to get easy for the center.
“I think about it in my mind. I’ve really been through everything you could think about,” Towns said. “I’ve been everything from defamed by teammates, been a scapegoat for people, COVID, my own personal life. I mean, (stuff) hasn’t been easy since I came here, but the only thing that’s constant is me being a constant professional in all of that.”
Professionalism has always been an attribute Towns has aimed to maintain. It’s an important value to him.
“I’m not going to ever change to fit an agenda or narratives that people have for me or they want me to be. I’m going to always continue to be me, and at the end of the day I’m always going to continue to be a professional through everything,” Towns said. “A cool man by the name of Drake, Aubrey Graham, he said, ‘A wise man once said nothing at all,’ and I’ve always chose that route to keep to myself and be a professional and put this organization first in everything, even when it required me to be, I guess, the punching bag for the world. I put the Wolves first before myself.”
Towns noted every time he has new teammates, he tries his best to make sure they’re comfortable and feel important. Many times, he said, that comes at the price of himself.
“And I’m OK with paying that price every time if it leads to wins. I’ve done that every single step of the way,” Towns said. “I’ve always been a professional. I’ve always been about the organization. I’ve always put the organization first, and I’m going to continue to do that. That’s not going to change with how much life has tried to (push down) on me. I’m going to continue to put this organization first every step of the way, and hopefully along the way I can find a lot more wins and a lot more chances in the Western Conference to win a Finals or a Western Conference Finals or even just give me a chance to be in the playoffs and let me rock.”