Temper expectations for Karl-Anthony Towns’ return
The Minnesota Timberwolves, like many NBA teams in the NBA Western Conference, are locked in limbo. After you get past the Sacramento Kings in the rankings, the next ten teams in the NBA Western Conference are separated by a mere 3.5 games. And the Minnesota Timberwolves, at 11.5 games out of first place with a 31-31 record, are in the thick of it.
The Timberwolves have a 4-6 record over their last 10 games and are in the midst of a two-game losing streak. If the Timberwolves fall just one more game away from the first-place Denver Nuggets, they not only lose their seventh-seed berth for the upcoming NBA Playoffs, they fall out of the NBA Playoffs discussion altogether. That is on the Timberwolves roster without Karl-Anthony Towns.
What does Towns’ return really mean?
The return of Karl-Anthony Towns could create more problems than it solves, to be quite honest. After all, the Timberwolves, awkward or not, have been forging their chemistry, trust, and intuition about the flow of NBA games without Towns for months. It has not always been pretty, but it’s been their history.
Setting too lofty expectations for Towns can be just as counter-productive as shunning the guy when he returns. In either case, he will not be optimized for the Timberwolves’ final chapter of the season. If he is expected to be the ‘hot hand,’ then players will forego taking their own shots in deference to getting Towns the basketball. If he is cold, or if he fails to meet his teammates’ expectations, then they are just as likely to play around him, and not involve him as often as they should.
We know Karl-Anthony Towns has limits. We know that he can become fatigued and emotional in the midst of contests and that when that happens, he can lose focus and be a detriment. But he does have that hot hand of scoring from almost everywhere on the basketball court, and when he finds his range, he can light up the scoreboard like nobody’s business.
But it won’t happen at the press of a button. It will take time to navigate and figure out. Unfortunately, time is the one thing that the Minnesota Timberwolves have far too little of right now.