Though Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns is ‘live,’ return doesn’t appear imminent
Sidelined by a calf strain since late November, the center is doing light drills, coach Chris Finch said
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said this week that Karl-Anthony Towns, out since late November with a calf strain, has started doing what he called “live action” work. On Thursday, the coach defined what live action truly means.
“Working with the (player development) coach against controlled defense, 1-on-1, maybe a little 2-on-2 concepts, stuff like that,” Finch said. “It’s not super-intense or anything like that; it’s just more trying to get him comfortable feeling where he is right now in that.”
Wolves wing Jaden McDaniels said Towns “didn’t look like he was stumbling or didn’t lose a step,” adding that he is seeing the center “getting back to himself.”
“He ain’t really put up no shots,” McDaniels added, “but he was just getting up and down, playing defense. Like, he was moving good laterally. So, it was good to see.”
Finch said Towns can “feel like he’s got the bit in his teeth right now.”
“He probably wants to do a little bit more than he’s actually allowed,” the coach added. “That’s good.”
Starting Friday against the Brooklyn Nets at Target Center, Minnesota has 15 regular-season games remaining. Finch still doesn’t know when Towns will return to full practice but he said he believes Minnesota could get Towns into some 5-on-0 work “coming up here soon.” Those conversations, however, have yet to take place, and Finch presumed there would need to be more sessions like Thursday’s before he moves on to anything more intense.
That all suggests Towns’ return is still far from imminent.
But the hope and plan is still to have Towns back in action before the end of the season, even if the timing of his return could be complicated. Finch said “regardless” of what happens between now and then, seeing Towns fit in with the rotation Minnesota has started to see gel is a high priority.
“Just to see what we have,” he said.
Even if Minnesota were to fall completely out of the playoff race — an unlikely scenario — Finch said there would still be things the Wolves would need to see to evaluate and strategize moving into the offseason.
Then there’s the other side of the coin: What if Towns is cleared for action with only a few games remaining and the Wolves in the thick of a playoff race? There are plenty of scenarios in which Minnesota needs to win a large percentage of its remaining contests to secure a certain seed or position in the play-in or playoffs.
Towns’ return could cause a disruption in any rhythm the Wolves have established.
“Listen, it’s hard to tell an all-NBA player they’re not playing, especially one that you’ve been wanting to play all year. I don’t see that, you know what I mean?” Finch said. “We feel KAT is able to help us regardless of what the situation is. If it’s a minutes restriction, maybe you’re strategic and he comes off the bench to start with that, depending what the minutes are. I think he would be open to anything at that point.”
Rudy Gobert said all of Towns’ teammates are “really excited to have him back.” The players have made it a point to not only keep Towns positive and motivated, but also to keep him connected with the team. That could help smooth a transition back into the lineup if and when the time comes.
“Even if he wasn’t on the floor with us, he’s been able to watch the way we’ve grown as a team and to also be a part of what we do,” Gobert said.
“It’s just communicating,” he added. “Just competing and communicating, pretty much. And then spacing for each other. Those things, I think, are going to be easy for him, and then obviously he’s one of the most talented, one of the most efficient players in the league. So, I’m not worried about that.”
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