Karl-Anthony Towns has rarely experienced the kind of professional joy he has had this season.
It has not been his best year statistically, although on March 14 he scored 60 points, the highest of his career and franchise, becoming the first center since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 in score 60 points in a game. It’s also not the first time he’s played in the Minnesota playoffs.
But, he said, it is the most supportive and united team he has ever been with as a professional.
“We’re a brave team,” Towns said. “We have great chemistry. We feel very confident in what we can do. We know that every time we step on the basketball court we can beat anyone in the world.”
The Timberwolves (46-36) finished the regular season in seventh place in the Western Conference, and will face the eighth-ranked Los Angeles Clippers in the play-in tournament Tuesday night in Minneapolis. The winner will be the seventh seed in the playoffs and will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. The loser will return to play on Friday to have a chance to be the eighth seed and face the Phoenix Suns, No. 1 seed.
If the Timberwolves win this week, they will only advance to the playoffs for the second time since 2004. The only other time during this stretch that Minnesota made the playoffs was 2017-18, with Jimmy Butler.
This year is Towns ’seventh in the NBA since the Timberwolves first selected him in 2015 from the University of Kentucky.
Towns spoke to The New York Times about what he likes so much about this team and why he feels more confident in his garbage talk these days.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You’ve approached base Patrick Beverley this season. What did you think of him before you played with him?
I’ve always thought of Pat Bev as a plague, you know? Someone you hate to play against but would like to have on your team. He was right. Having him as a teammate now, you see why so many teams find in him such amazing value, because he is so valuable to one team.
Remember when you first realized how special it was for this team?
I mean, I knew how special he was before, just because of his personality and listening to him on the track and all. I already knew he was a different kind of player. I knew it was special [for the Timberwolves] from the beginning only because of the type of energy it attracts and the type of energy it spends. Their way of getting to work and their way of approaching work is something I am very grateful for and I am very happy to see them every day. It makes us all better, improves internships, and involves us more.
After your 60-point game, you said you hadn’t celebrated like this before. What did you mean?
You’ve never had this kind of water, this kind of thing, this kind of celebration for a player, and for being me, I’ve never experienced it.
I’m so used to feeling that every day at work is a different day; no matter what I put in, that’s what I’m supposed to do. He was supposed to go out there and give us the best chance to win and score at a high pace. So it was just one more day in the office. I knew it was a special moment, but it was something I had to do. That’s how I felt.
[My teammates] they made it more special and made it something worth celebrating. Like I said, I’ve never been given flowers like this in my career, so it was great to be appreciated by my teammates and respected by my teammates, but also to be celebrated.
Does it help the confidence of individual players, not just yours but everyone else’s, to have the kind of closeness as a team you’ve talked about?
Yes, because everyone understands that we all want to sacrifice ourselves for the betterment of others and for the betterment of this team. Whatever it takes to win, we will do it as a team. I believe that with victory comes glory for all. So we are fighting for the same thing, and that is what makes us so dangerous.
Considering everything you’ve gone through in the sense of basketball, have you ever wondered if you would ever be part of a team like this?
No, I never had any doubts. I never doubted myself even once what I could do. I never doubted my skills, my competitive advantage, my competitiveness. I never doubted the work I did. I knew I had to wait for my chance. I had to wait for my chance to have a team like this, to have such a great coaching staff. And I’ve had some great technical teams, but having a coaching staff that connects with a group of guys the way they have, generates victories and generates camaraderie and chemistry. I knew I just needed a little stability and a chance and to run with her and make the most of her.
You guys got a lot of attention for the way you were shattered with the Los Angeles Lakers when they were in Minneapolis in March. You don’t always show this type of drag. What made you feel comfortable showing this side of yourself?
Just the chemistry I have with the guys to know that whatever situation I’m in, I feel like we move like a gang. Having the feeling that we are moving like a gang, not even in a bad way, with a negative connotation, but more so when I walk down the track I feel like I have 14 brothers behind me in everything I do.
It allows me to pull more of my Jersey side. I’m from Jersey. Talk a little bit about garbage, but more about the pond, the confidence with which we walk through our neighborhoods. It’s always great when you feel like you have a team behind you that is there with you in the trenches, but also winning. You won’t say too much when you’re losing.
If the playoff system was the same as before, you would be in a first round series. What is your opinion on the play-in tournament?
If we didn’t want to be in the play-in tournament, we should have gotten more wins and be the sixth or fifth seed. That’s what it is. I’m not here to complain about any of this. You have to do what you have to do.
Is there any way to be personally different from the last time you played in the playoffs?
My situation is totally different. I’m happy to get into a situation like this.
Can you expand it?
No. I don’t want to expand on that. I will not go back to any past [stuff]. The past is the past. I’ve been through it once before and I’m glad to go through it this time in a different way.