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Karl-Anthony Towns sets ‘championship or bust’ expectations for Timberwolves. Why not?

In some ways, it seems early for such proclamations. The Timberwolves haven’t been to the second round of the NBA playoffs since 2004. This spring marked the first playoff experience for a number of key players on the roster, who are still in the infant stages of their careers. Going from that to championship is quite a leap.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns reacts during a game Feb. 1, 2022, against the Denver Nuggets at Target Center in Minneapolis.
USA Today Sports file photo
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Whether or not he was caught up in the excitement surrounding his latest max contract extension, Karl-Anthony Towns wasn’t shy about making proclamations for the Minnesota Timberwolves at his press conference Friday.

“We all know it’s championship or bust,” he said. “We’re going to go out there and try to get it.”

That’s the first time anyone around the team has spoken about such expectations. That the upcoming season carried such a mentality was news to coach Chris Finch.

“Oh, is it?” Finch asked. “I guess so. That’s what we’re in it for, right?”

That’s what all 30 NBA teams are here for, but most enter the season knowing they have no chance to actually lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the end.


“I think that a lot of times when you’re talking about wanting to win, the fans are like ‘It’s a lot of smoke,’ ” Towns said.

But maybe not this time. The Wolves now have three top-30 — at minimum — players on their roster. They are stocked with young talent, and Finch has proven to be a high-end coach. That’s something.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns works around Philadelphia's Joel Embiid Feb. 25, 2022, at Target Center in Minneapolis.
Bruce Kluckhohn / USA Today Sports

There is legitimate reason for optimism.

“I think (fans) can see the vision that we’re seeing, so just go out there and win,” Towns said. “I’ve said it now in multiple interviews, I said it up there, it’s championship or bust. I think when you trade the amount of pieces and things that we did for Rudy (Gobert), you expect to win a championship. I think we’re all in agreement together on that. I’m not going to go up there and say, ‘Oh, well, you know…’ (Fans) understand. They know.”

In some ways, it seems early for such proclamations. The Timberwolves haven’t been to the second round of the NBA playoffs since 2004. This spring marked the first playoff experience for a number of key players on the roster, who are still in the infant stages of their careers. Going from that to championship is quite a leap.

At the same time, Rudy Gobert is 30 years old. He’s in the prime of his career. Towns is entering his. Why should they want to wait to reach such lofty heights?

The city, Towns noted, is yearning for it.

“It’s only right to give the kids here that felt like they never had a chance to see championship basketball,” Town said. “Let’s make a run to give it to them,”


Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert and D’Angelo Russell all sat the game out for Minnesota.
Only 10% of polled general managers picked Minnesota to finish as a top four-seed in the Western Conference.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that Towns had a throat infection that caused him trouble breathing. Towns participated in non-contact work in Monday’s practice.
Minnesota wants to capitalize on what its new rim protector excels at
Wolves acquisition of Rudy Gobert complicates Reid's role
Minnesota spent the offseason publicly pumping up the 4th-year guard
The 6-foot-6 forward played significant roles in all three of his NBA seasons, starting games for Utah and Golden State.
Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels and Karl-Anthony Towns are now armed with another year of experience and playoff battle scars upon which they can rely. Add Rudy Gobert to the mix, and the Wolves should match up well with most teams on any given night.
Edwards called the incident “a wake-up call” that showed him how much weight his words carry. In the past two weeks, he said he’s learned “in the blink of an eye, things can be gone.”
The rise of Anthony Edwards and offseason acquisition of Rudy Gobert has the Timberwolves, and their fans, thinking big — in more ways than one. Expectations are high and reasons for optimism are plentiful.

Towns has been in contact with NBA players and front-office personnel. Those conversations have made it clear that the League is now aware of the Wolves. NBA teams, Towns said, are now thinking about the ways in which they can beat Minnesota.

“I think we shook up the landscape a lot, and people weren’t happy about that. I love that,” he said. “So why not keep that momentum going? Why not change the game? Why not bring a championship, bring that basketball that the fans and everyone here has been yearning for so much. Let’s bring it back. And let’s bring it back not just for one year, then everyone gets excited and it’s over with, let’s do it for consecutive years in a row and make a run.”

Timberwolves basketball boss Tim Connelly said he’s “not a zero-sum guy.” His goal is for Minnesota to have a “seat at the table.” That means being a home-court playoff team that nabs a top-four seed in the Western Conference. Once you have that, you see where the chips fall with injuries and matchups.

“We’re hopeful that our foundation will allow that to be a viable goal. In years past I don’t think we could look ourselves in the mirror and say we have a chance to be a home-court playoff team,” Connelly said. “I think once you get there, you kind of throw the dice and see what happens. I’m not all or nothing. That’s a tough way to live.”

But there’s something to be said for setting high expectations for yourself. No one will hold it against the Wolves if they set championship goals in the fall and come up short of those in the spring. There is no harm in shooting for the stars and falling in the clouds.

Finch’s sights are set on continuing to build and keeping the team heading in the right direction more than “championship or bust,” but he knows expectations are a natural part of ascension.

“The expectations of success are the expectations that you do want. You have to embrace those,” he said. “At the end of the day, every season unfolds as it does, but we’re excited about what we have with the potential that’s inside of us.”

Perhaps no one more so than Towns.


“We got experience now, we got the right coach, we got the right front office. I think it’s go time,” Towns said. “This is it. The trade happens, there’s no more time, there’s no more excuses. We gotta get it done now. I’m gonna go out there and it’s championship or bust. We’ve got to get the job done.”


This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

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