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Karl-Anthony Towns: ‘Keep sleeping on us’

The Timberwolves All-Star said his squad can make noise in the loaded West

SAN FRANCISCO — With the NBA season fast approaching, there has been a lot of buzz in the Western Conference about the Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets.

But Karl-Anthony Towns is warning you not to sleep on his Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Everyone always sleeps on people in Minnesota because they don’t hear our name a lot,” Towns, who was named a 2019 NBA Western Conference All-Star, told The Undefeated. “That’s fine. That’s cool. We are going to come from the underground and just find ourselves in the playoffs if we continue to do what we’re doing. …

“It’s fine. Keep sleeping on us.”

Towns and the Timberwolves made the playoffs in 2018 when Jimmy Butler was still on the team, but Minnesota regressed last season. The team traded Butler in November, finished with a 36-46 record and missed the postseason.

Minnesota’s biggest additions this past offseason were heralded rookie forward Jarrett Culver and free-agent reserves Jordan Bell, Jake Layman and Shabazz Napier. Robert Covington, who came over from the Philadelphia 76ers in the Butler trade, is also healthy after missing extensive time with a knee injury.

To bring this year’s squad together, Towns set up a trip to the Bahamas before training camp. From what the 24-year-old has seen so far, he is confident Minnesota will make some noise this season. The New Jersey native recently talked to The Undefeated for the following Q&A.


Can you talk about the Bahamas trip you set up for the team before training camp?

I just put the idea out and put my money where my mouth is. The team, the guys went to the Bahamas. They made the decision to show up and show how committed they are to this organization, to this team and to this season. I was just trying to be the voice. I was just trying to bring the idea.

Don’t give me no credit. It’s these guys in this locker room that made it possible. They made the sacrifice to go to the Bahamas on their personal time. They were not required to do that.

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Vacation w/ the pack. 🐺 #BahamaWolves

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What made you want to set up the trip?

We’re a team. We’re a brotherhood. This is a family. This is a culture. We have to think of things as a family. The season is coming up. There are a lot of opportunities in front of us. Why not use this opportunity to get to know each other on a personal level instead of just basketball? I think a lot of us did, which is why we have such great camaraderie and unity in this locker room right now.

How much later was the hurricane in the Bahamas after your team trip? What were your thoughts on the devastation the Bahamas endured?

It was a week or two later. … We donated a lot of money back. It was important for us to give back to the Bahamas because they were so great to us. It’s about reciprocation of energy. We wanted to show how much we appreciated their efforts for making us feel at home there. …

That place was so beautiful, and to see it so wrecked it was tough, especially with me being from DR (Dominican Republic). When you have a place like that, that is destroyed, it hits so close to home. I’m just keeping everyone in my prayers.

What is the key to your leadership?

True leaders don’t need to be doing all the ‘rah, rah’ s—. Everyone is a different leader. Everyone has different ways. For my career, I’d led by action. I’m the first one to come in the gym. The last one to leave. I’ve played games where I shouldn’t have played, but I have played to help the team win.

Leadership comes as the person who is just being the vocal portion of an idea. Everyone has to come together and lead in a certain way. Everyone has to feel entitled. And everyone has to have a part of the ownership of this team and its success. Listen, I am doing my best to make everyone better and do what I’m supposed to do. But at the end of the day, we’re all leaders in this locker room and doing it together.

Where do you get your confidence from?

I have always been confident. I am from Jersey. I breathe confidence. We’re doing well. But the confidence I’ve garnered has come from putting in the hours in the gym. My confidence was born in the gym, not born from people saying s—. I live by that motto.

Can you talk about your friendship with late rapper Mac Miller and what he meant to you?

He meant a lot to me. He is my background on my phone for a reason. I find a lot of encouragement and strength from him. He was a person who pushed me to do different things when I was more self-conscious of what I wanted to do. I had been doing it with him for a long time. I was opened up to new ideas and new philosophies. Just hearing him talk and his thought process was really cool. I was just feeling his energy and his vibes when I was with him. I had some great times with him that I am going to carry with me.

How do the Wolves become a problem in the West?

We have to play our game of basketball. It doesn’t matter about being anyone. We have to play to our standards. We have to play the way we play. We don’t have time to waste looking at other people and worrying about being the second version of this team and that team. We got to worry about being the first version of us and playing our style of basketball.

And if people beat us playing our style of basketball, you salute them and move on to the next team. If we play the way we know how to play the way, especially with what I have seen in training camp and when we’re at our best, there are not a lot of teams that have a chance to beat us.

How good can the Wolves be?

We can be as good as we want to be, as long as we stay cohesive, we stay unified and continue to play the game we play on a nightly basis. … It’s easy to win one game. It’s hard to win most of the games in an 82-game season. Obviously, if we are blessed with health and play basketball the way we know we can play basketball, we will be just fine.

After getting a taste of the playoffs in 2018, how tough was it not to be a part of the postseason last season?

It’s always tough not to be in the playoffs. I live for the playoffs. I have won a lot in my life. And I have expected nothing less in the NBA since day one in training camp as a rookie. … I had a great time in the playoffs, and I learned a lot more things that people don’t get to learn. I learned how to do things to benefit the team as best as possible.

Do you feel like NBA fans at large know who you are yet?

I don’t worry about that. I worry about my family. I worry about every day making sure when I come to the court I am the best that I can be. That’s what I am worried about. I am not worried about fans knowing who I am or coming up to me for autographs or being famous. I am just worried about being the best basketball player and finding ways to win.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for The Undefeated. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.