Jace Frederick / St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS -- Karl-Anthony Towns is on a monumental tear through the NBA since the all-star break. In his six games since the break, Towns is second in the NBA in scoring at 34.3 points a game, trailing only Houston’s James Harden. His 14 rebounds a game are good for third in the league. In that span, Towns ranks first in the league in Player Impact Estimate, an NBA.com stat that measures a player’s impact on winning.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Luol Deng suffered his Achilles injury sometime late in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 112-105 victory over Sacramento on Feb. 25. The veteran wing remained in the game, wanting to help the Wolves win. He again tried to push through the pain in the Wolves’ following game in Atlanta but could muster just eight minutes of court time. Deng hasn’t played since. “I just knew it was getting worse,” he said. “It wasn’t one of those injuries if I played through and get treatment I could overcome it. It’s something that I needed to be out for.”
MINNEAPOLIS — The Timberwolves were winners of four of their previous five games and creeping back into the Western Conference playoff race as they went on the road last week. Then everything fell apart, as has often been the case this season when the Wolves play away from Target Center. The main culprit was familiar, too: porous defense.
MINNEAPOLIS -- As part of their celebration of Black History Month in 2017, the Minnesota Timberwolves honored Leon Tazel III during a timeout of one of their February home games for his work as founder of the Tazel Institute. It was going to be a one-off recognition. Assistant general manager Noah Croom would hand Tazel a ball at half-court and on everyone would go with their lives.
ST. PAUL — Ryan Saunders has developed a strong relationship with Tyus Jones over the years. It’s one that goes beyond coach and player; Jones calls it “person to person.” And there’s one thing Saunders knows about Jones. “I know Tyus is a winner,” the Timberwolves' interim coach said Monday, Feb. 25. Jones provided the latest example of that in Minnesota’s win over Sacramento. Starting in place of injured point guard Jeff Teague — who missed the game with knee soreness — Jones tallied 16 points, eight assists and three steals.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Timberwolves practice ran longer than expected Thursday, Feb. 21. On their first full-team practice since returning from all-star break, Wolves players didn’t want to leave the floor. “It actually got to a point where they wanted to play more and scrimmage more,” interim coach Ryan Saunders said. And they were doing so at a high level. Karl-Anthony Towns said Minnesota “played with a tremendous amount of ferocity and concentration.” “I think we did a hell of a job,” the all-star center declared.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Ryan Saunders enters the final stretch of the NBA season knowing how close his team is to being much better in a number of areas. With help from the Minnesota Timberwolves’ analytics department, Saunders poured over numbers during the all-star break. They told the interim coach an encouraging story: His team isn’t that far off.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Karl-Anthony Towns who will take the court for the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte on Sunday, Feb. 17, is a far different player from the one who made his first All-Star Game appearance in Los Angeles last season. He’s not the same guy he was when he entered the league, nor the player who averaged a career-best 25 points a game in his second campaign or even the center who started this season for Minnesota.
MINNEAPOLIS — Josh Okogie lit up social media on Wednesday night, Feb. 13, with the block heard ’round the basketball world. Houston Rockets’ guard James Harden — the front-runner to win his second straight League MVP award this season — has killed all opponents with his patented step-back 3-point jumper all season. That move has played a major role in Harden’s streak of 31 consecutive games with 30-plus points. It was largely assumed to be unstoppable. Until Okogie proved otherwise.
MINNEAPOLIS -- When you’re an NBA head coach, there are hard conversations to be had throughout the season. Usually, telling a player you no longer want to start him is one of them. That was the position Ryan Saunders found himself in this week. Taj Gibson had done nothing wrong, but Minnesota was struggling and needed a change -- and reserve forward Dario Saric was one of the team’s few recent bright spots. Saunders wanted to insert Saric into the starting lineup beginning in Monday’s game against the Clippers, and move Gibson back to the bench.