Heightened Expectations

By Bryan Crawford #26

When the Minnesota Timberwolves made Karl-Anthony Towns the No. 1 overall pick in 2015, the Twin Cities had finally landed another generational superstar and talent that hadn’t been seen in those parts since Kevin Garnett was taken No. 5 overall by the T-Wolves 20 years prior, and nearly five months before Towns was even born. But, from the day he suited up and played his first professional basketball game, Towns hasn’t disappointed. His versatile skillset and the way he plays the game with passion, while being a dominant force and having fun in the process, has brought a new air of excitement that makes Minneapolis winters more palpable. It’s fair to say that in a League where centers have evolved from being strictly low-post players, to guys who have the freedom to put their ballhandling, playmaking and outside shooting on display, Towns has positioned himself into being one of the NBA’s elite big men in that regard, and has made Minnesota one of the League Pass darlings.

In just his third professional NBA campaign, this past season KAT averaged 21.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.4 blocks and played in all 82 games for the third time. He was named to the Western Conference All-Star team and was an integral part of helping the Minnesota Timberwolves break its 13-year playoff drought.

Yes, the T-Wolves lost in five games to the Houston Rockets, but playoff basketball returning to Minnesota was not only a big deal for the city, but raised expectations for both the team, and Towns, inside and outside of Minneapolis.

HOOP sat down with Minnesota’s wunderkind to talk basketball and we discovered that Karl Anthony-Towns has no plans plan on running from and ducking outside expectations, because the ones he has for himself and the team are just as big as those being placed on him by Timberwolves fans and basketball fans in general.

David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images

The Minnesota Timberwolves were finally back in the playoffs after 13 years of missing the postseason. You guys came up short, but the games were intense and the team competed hard. What was your first postseason experience like?

It was a great moment to be able to help the team make the playoffs and bring the excitement of that back to Minnesota, but nowhere in that run were we satisfied with getting knocked out in the first round. We have a lot of things to do as individuals and as a team if we expect ourselves to be better, get better and do better in the playoffs next year.

Were the playoffs everything you expected, in terms of the intensity and seriousness of the games?

It was what I thought it would be. It’s kind of hard to explain, but the playoffs were definitely as intense as I thought it would be.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Western Conference has gotten a lot more loaded now. Boogie Cousins is with the Golden State Warriors now and LeBron James will be wearing a Los Angeles Lakers uniform next season. When you look at moves like the these and you see the competition getting that much stronger over the summer, when you’re preparing for next season training and working out, are you keeping things like that in the front of your mind?

My mindset is the same every summer when I’m getting ready for the next season, and that’s to go out there and try to beat every team wearing a jersey different from ours every night. So, I go into every workout the same way, which is trying to get better so I can help my team win. I work my tail off to try and be the best player that I can be, and the best teammate I can be because those kinds of things help you win games in this League.

I know you guys weren’t happy with the way the season ended when the team fell down to the eighth seed and literally faced a “win or go home” scenario against the Nuggets in your final game of the year. Taking that into consideration, what kind of goals do you have going into the upcoming season?

Obviously, we want to get back to the playoffs. But we don’t want to just make it, we want to make it farther than the first round. There’s no satisfaction for us in getting to the playoffs and then being eliminated in five games. We want to make a run. We have to understand that we have to give ourselves a chance to be a real contender, and that’s what we have to do this year. We understand what the expectations are around us, but we have expectations and goals for ourselves that we want to reach and get past them.

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

Your former Wildcat teammate Devin Booker just signed a new max contract extension with the Phoenix Suns, even though when he was taken 13th overall in 2015. It’s fair to say that no one saw this coming, but as his friend and former teammate, did you expect him to be this good, this fast?

I’ve said it before that the other 12 times that passed on him were going to regret it. He’s one of those people with the kind of talent that you can’t afford to miss out on. He’s part of the next generation of great shooters and scorers to come into this League. He can do it all, and the ability he has on the court is just uncanny. He’s one of the best to ever put on an NBA jersey and play basketball and I know he’s going to finish his career as one of the best players at his position. I’m very humbled to be in the NBA at the same time as him so that I can see it.