Karl-Anthony Towns

Northwest Notes: Hyland, Gordon, Towns, Blazers

Nuggets guard Bones Hyland would be open to a trade that allows him to secure a larger role on a new team, Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report stated during Tuesday night’s broadcast of the Pelicans/Nuggets game in Denver (Twitter video link).

While Haynes’ info is new, it lines up with what we’ve heard during the last week from other reporters. Jake Fischer said last Friday that “occasional clashes” between Hyland and Nuggets head coach Michael Malone were a factor in Denver’s willingness to gauge his trade market, while Marc Stein alluded this week to “tensions” about the second-year guard’s playing time.

Hyland averaged 19.0 minutes per game during his rookie season in 2021/22 and has played a similar role in year two, logging 19.5 MPG so far in ’22/23. He’s tied for seventh among Nuggets players in minutes per game, but is one of the team’s top five scorers with 12.1 PPG.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • In a conversation with Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon spoke about the importance of continuity in Denver, his experience playing alongside Nikola Jokic, and the odds of earning his first All-Star nod. “It would mean a lot to me,” Gordon said of the All-Star possibility. “I hope I make it.”
  • There’s still no set return timeline for injured Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns, who remains out indefinitely due to his calf injury, president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said on Tuesday during a radio appearance on KFAN 100.3 (Twitter link via Dane Moore). However, the team’s “full expectation” is that Towns will return at some point this season, Connelly added.
  • After resetting their roster last season with a series of major trades, the Trail Blazers – tied for 11th in the West with a 24-26 record – seem to be back in no-man’s land, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. O’Connor considers what moves Portland can make around star point guard Damian Lillard to become a contender, arguing that center Jusuf Nurkic is a weak link and that the team should be open to the idea of moving any of Anfernee Simons, Josh Hart, and Shaedon Sharpe if the return is right.

Northwest Notes: KAT, Kessler, MPJ, Hart

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns has been away from the bench during the team’s recent games. According to head coach Chris Finch, that’s because the 6’11” big man is striving to follow “recovery protocols and keeping his leg in the right position,” per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Towns has not played for Minnesota since suffering a right calf strain. Though he was originally projected to miss four-to-six weeks with the injury, he has been unavailable for two months. Krawczynski added that, for now, there’s still no timeline for Towns to rejoin the 27-25 club.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Jazz head coach Will Hardy indicated that rookie center Walker Kessler is likely to stay the team’s long-term starter, per Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune (via Twitter). Kessler had been filling in for previous incumbent five Kelly Olynyk over the past few weeks, but upon Olynyk’s return, Hardy opted to shift the vet to the starting power forward spot, meaning Jarred Vanderbilt has been moved to the bench for now. Kessler is averaging 7.7 PPG on 71.5% shooting from the floor, along with 7.3 RPG and 2.0 BPG.
  • Nuggets small forward Michael Porter Jr. is excited to be back with the club after missing three games due to personal reasons, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. “For all players, being on the court, being with your team is a sanctuary,” head coach Michael Malone said. “That’s the one opportunity you can get away from everything going on in your life and be in your happy place. It was great for our guys to have their brother back. It was also really important for Michael to be back with his team.” Malone also told Porter it’s a blessing that he’s got the foundation he has around him.
  • Trail Blazers small forward Josh Hart is reportedly attracting the interesting of several clubs as the February trade deadline nears and is thought to be “very available,” reports Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports on a new edition of his podcast Please Don’t Aggregate This (hat tip to HoopsHype for the transcription). The 6’5″ swingman is averaging 9.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 4.0 APG and 1.1 SPG in a starting role with the 23-26 Blazers.

Wolves Notes: KAT, Gobert, Russell, Connelly, Nuggets

Karl-Anthony Towns has been sidelined since November 28 after suffering a right calf strain. As Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes, the Timberwolves‘ star big man recently expressed frustration regarding the reporting surrounding the injury.

It was never a Grade 2 [strain], it was never going to be a Grade 2, unfortunately,” Towns said on his livestream. “I prayed to God almighty that it was a Grade 2, but I knew it wasn’t. It was a Grade 3.”

Hine notes that Grade 3 strains are more severe and a recovery timeline could be more than two months. ESPN reported on November 29 that Towns would miss four-to-six weeks, but was expected to make a full recovery and return in January. Towns said that timeline was never in the cards.

I wish it was four-to-six weeks. I knew then it wasn’t going to be four to six,” Towns said. “The team was trying to say four to six. There was no way with the injury I sustained, it’s a very significant injury. I don’t know if they were trying to give false hope to the fans or what the case may be.”

Hine points out that the Wolves ruled Towns out indefinitely and never gave a definitive recovery timeline. Still, it’s understandable that he would be frustrated about an inaccurate timeline that was leaked almost immediately after taking his MRI. The 27-year-old also gave a positive (if vague) update on his recovery.

I’m getting better. Everything is going good. Going really well,” Towns said, per Hine. “Just getting better, man. It takes time. This is a very real injury. Significant, but it could’ve been way worse.”

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • Grading the team to this point is “premature and pointless,” according to Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune, who argues that the Wolves still need to see what they have with a fully healthy lineup before declaring the season — and the Rudy Gobert trade — a lost cause. Souhan says it has been a disappointing 47 games, and they clearly have some issues, but it’s too early to make broad declarations. They’ve gone 13-13 without Towns and are still in the playoff mix at 23-24, currently the West’s No. 7 seed.
  • D’Angelo Russell showed both his strengths and weaknesses in Thursday’s game against the Raptors, but ultimately came through in the clutch with several big shots in leading the Wolves to a comeback victory, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Russell has been the subject of recent trade rumors, and his high-variance play can be frustrating, so Minnesota will have a tough decision to make ahead of the deadline, Krawczynski adds.
  • President of basketball operations Tim Connelly, who was hired away from the Nuggets in the offseason, says he still wants to see his former team succeed, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscriber link). “… I watch every Nuggets game, I root for them like crazy,” he said. “It’s neat that me and my family played something super small.” Minnesota visited Denver for the first time this season on Wednesday, and while Connelly enjoyed seeing his former co-workers, he also said it was “super weird.”

Northwest Notes: Bazley, Towns, Blazers, Grant, Jazz Arena

Darius Bazley has seen his playing time diminish this season but the Thunder forward is handling the situation professionally, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets in a video link. Bazley said, “It’s not about me and it never will be. I’m always invested in the team.”

Thunder coach Mark Daigneault has been impressed by Bazley’s attitude. “He deserves a lot of credit and it’s a powerful signal to the rest of the group, it’s a form of leadership. I admire how he’s handling this,” he said (Twitter link). Bazley is in the final year of his rookie contract with a current qualifying offer of $6.2MM if the team wants to make him a restricted free agent.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • In his midseason review of the Timberwolves, Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes that the team hasn’t formed an identity, due to the extended injury absence of Karl-Anthony Towns. Minnesota has gone 10-11 without its biggest star, who is sidelined by a calf injury. “When he comes back we’re going to look different,” guard Anthony Edwards said. “Right now, we’re trying to figure it out still, so when we get him back, it might be a little easier.”
  • The Trail Blazers have been in a downward spiral in recent weeks but they’re not straying from their preseason goal, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic. “I think we are in really good shape,” coach Chauncey Billups said. “We are figuring out what it is that we’ve got, and what we don’t have, which is what this thing is all about.”
  • In the same piece, Quick says that the Trail Blazers have establish a top priority — re-signing Jerami Grant, either to an extension or when he hits the free agent market.
  • The former Delta Center will become the Delta Center once again, according to Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune. The home of the Jazz was called the Delta Center until 2006, when it was renamed Vivint Arena. Utah has signed a long-term naming rights deal with Delta Air Lines to change the name again on July 1.

Injury Notes: Towns, Finney-Smith, N. Powell, Nets

Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns isn’t close to returning to action, according to head coach Chris Finch, who said today on a KFAN radio appearance that he expects Towns to remain sidelined for a “multitude of weeks,” according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

It has been three weeks since reports indicated Towns would be sidelined for at least four-to-six weeks due to a calf strain, so it comes as no surprise that his return isn’t imminent. Krawczynski notes that the big man is due for a reevaluation fairly soon, so we may get a clearer sense at that time about when Towns might be back.

Here are a few more injury-related updates from around the NBA:

  • After he left Monday’s game in the third quarter due to a right adductor strain, Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith admitted that he first sustained the injury on Saturday and tried to play through it, writes Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. “Feel like I probably made it worse,” Finney-Smith said. “It takes a lot for me to get out of there.” It’s unclear how much time Finney-Smith will miss, but he has already been ruled out for Wednesday’s contest. Players who suffer adductor strains generally remain out for at least a week or two.
  • The Clippers are hopeful that wing Norman Powell, who has been on the shelf since November 29 due to a left groin strain, will be able to play at some point on the team’s upcoming road trip, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. That five-game trip will begin in Philadelphia on Friday and will wrap up on December 31.
  • The Nets aren’t listing any injuries on their report for Wednesday’s game against Golden State, which is the first time that has happened since Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signed with the team in the summer of 2019, according to Alec Sturm of NetsDaily (Twitter link).

Tim Connelly: Wolves Expected “Growing Pains” With Rudy Gobert Trade

President of basketball operations Tim Connelly admits the Rudy Gobert trade hasn’t been an immediate success for the Timberwolves, but he never expected it to be, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Connelly explains that Minnesota made the deal with Utah with the understanding that it would take time to adjust to a unique player like Gobert.

“We didn’t have expectations it was initially going to hit the ground running. We kind of expected a lot of growing pains there,” Connelly said. “So I think, individually, Rudy’s been fantastic. When we’re fully healthy, we’ve got to figure out how to most effectively employ all those guys. It’s a win-loss league. If we had three or four more wins right now, it would be an emphatic positive.”

Instead, the Wolves are in 11th place in the West at 11-12 and have rarely looked like the energetic team that raised expectations in last season’s playoffs. Gobert is averaging 11.2 PPG, his lowest scoring numbers in seven years, and his rebounding is down to 11.4 per game after he led the league last season at 14.7. Most alarming is that he’s averaging just 1.3 blocks per night, about half of what he did in his best seasons in Utah, after being brought to Minnesota as a rim protector.

Connelly believes the statistical decline has a lot to do with getting used to a new set of teammates, and he expressed confidence that Gobert will eventually bounce back. He also stressed that the team’s perimeter players have to do a better job of clogging the lane and not relying so much on Gobert.

“There’s not a rim protector in the world who can just face live-ball dribbles all game,” Connelly said. “It’s not going to work. We have had moments of that where, ‘Hey Rudy’s back there so I can play olé defense.’”

Connelly paid a high price to acquire Gobert, so he understands why fans are impatient. The Wolves parted with three players who were instrumental to last season’s success — Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt and Patrick Beverley — along with a collection of draft picks that stretch all the way to 2029.

One of the issues raised by those who questioned the trade was how Gobert would fit alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and whether having two big men on the court at the same time could be effective in today’s NBA. Krawczynski notes that Towns was adapting to Gobert as well as anyone before being sidelined with a calf strain. Towns has more assists to Gobert than anybody else on the team does, and his enthusiasm for making the pairing work is one reason that Connelly remains optimistic.

“We’re not going to bury our head in the sand and pretend it’s been flawless,” Connelly said. “We never expected that. When we made the trade, it wasn’t done without a lot of conversation, a lot of watching of tape.”

Karl-Anthony Towns Sidelined 4-To-6 Weeks With Strained Calf

A right calf strain that Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns suffered Monday night will force him to miss approximately four-to-six weeks, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. He’s expected to make a full recovery and return to the court sometime in January, Wojnarowski adds.

Towns underwent an MRI on Tuesday morning that showed no structural damage to his Achilles, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Towns left Monday’s game in the third quarter after being injured on a non-contact play. He grabbed the back of his leg and needed help walking to the locker room.

Although there were fears that it could have been worse, the injury is still a major loss for the Wolves, who are off to a 10-11 start after losing Monday. Towns, a three-time All-Star, is averaging 20.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists through 21 games and is a major component in the team’s offense.

Towns has been adjusting to a new position after Minnesota traded for center Rudy Gobert during the summer. Their on-court partnership has gotten off to a rocky start, and Towns’ absence will provide another setback.

Karl-Anthony Towns Diagnosed With Calf Strain, Will Undergo MRI

Timberwolves star forward Karl-Anthony Towns will be further evaluated on Tuesday after an initial diagnosis of a right calf strain, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune tweets.

Towns suffered a non-contact injury during the third quarter of Minnesota’s contest against Washington on Monday night. He grabbed at the back of his leg as tried to head down the court. Towns needed assistance to be helped back to the locker room.

“Obviously super-concerned about that. Big blow for us,” coach Chris Finch said (Twitter link via David Aldridge of The Athletic).

Towns will get an MRI but there’s some early optimism that he may have avoided a substantial injury, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

It has been a disappointing season so far for the Timberwolves, whose record dropped to 10-11 with a loss to the Wizards. They were expected to be serious contenders in the Western Conference after the blockbuster trade with Utah that brought center Rudy Gobert to Minnesota.

An extended absence for Towns would make it much more difficult for a turnaround. He’s averaging 21.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.

The Timberwolves frontcourt is already dealing with the absence of Taurean Prince, who expected to be out a couple of weeks with a shoulder injury. Jaden McDaniels missed Monday’s game due to an illness.

Northwest Notes: Sharpe, Hart, Agbaji, Bolmaro, Towns

With Damian Lillard sidelined due to a calf strain, rookie guard Shaedon Sharpe earned his first career NBA start on Friday and didn’t disappoint, scoring 14 points in the Trail Blazers‘ victory over Houston. Given that Sharpe didn’t play at all at Kentucky and just turned 19 this spring, there was a sense that he may not see much action right away, but head coach Chauncey Billups hasn’t hesitated to throw the youngster into the deep end.

“I look at it as, man, we lost a lot of basketball games to get Shaedon Sharpe; let’s play this kid,” Billups said, per Jason Quick of The Athletic. “Let me see what he’s got.”

While Sharpe wasn’t the reason Portland won on Friday, he was the Blazers’ most electrifying player, throwing down three big dunks over the course of the night and earning praise from coaches and teammates alike, with Billups calling him “must-see TV.” Veteran Blazers center Drew Eubanks is among those already excited about Sharpe’s long-term potential.

“I heard Dame say it earlier this year, he was saying like, Shaedon is the type of talent that could take us over the edge of being a fringe playoff team into a full-blown playoff team fighting for a championship,” Eubanks said. “When he said that, I was like, ‘Damn, I’m gonna kind of take that with a grain of salt.’ Because I hadn’t seen Shaedon play … but after watching him play these first six games, and in preseason, I’m like, he’s super talented. He has the world at his fingertips. I believe what Dame said now, for sure.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Trail Blazers forward Josh Hart has entered the NBA’s concussion protocol, tweets Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. Hart suffered the injury on Friday when he hit his head on the floor after a drive to the basket.
  • Ochai Agbaji and Leandro Bolmaro, two young players acquired in Utah’s blockbuster summer trades, got their first extended run with the Jazz on Friday night, as Sarah Todd of The Deseret News details. Agabaji scored nine points in 19 minutes, while Bolmaro flashed promising play-making and defense and was a plus-16 in 15 minutes. The Jazz have until Monday’s deadline to exercise Bolmaro’s $2.59MM option for the 2023/24 season.
  • As the Timberwolves adjust to their new-look frontcourt that now features Karl-Anthony Towns at power forward instead of center, head coach Chris Finch continues to praise his All-Star big man for his willingness to accommodate Rudy Gobert, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “That guy is All-NBA. There’s no other All-NBA player who is being asked to play a completely different position,” Finch said. “One that he’s willing to do and has approached it with an open mind-set, and he’s actually embraced it.”

Northwest Notes: Timberwolves, Gobert, Towns, Simons, Lillard

The star-studded Timberwolves have stumbled out of the gate to begin the 2022/23 NBA season, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. The 2-2 Wolves have now dropped games against the Jazz and Spurs in what had been projected as a fairly easy opening stretch for a team that reshaped its roster by adding former Utah All-Star center Rudy Gobert in a blockbuster deal this summer.

Krawczynski observes that, in the Wolves’ third home game of the year against San Antonio, they looked particularly listless defensively, star shooting guard Anthony Edwards appeared disengaged on offense, Gobert struggled to hold onto rebounds, and the club was playing through boos from the Target Center crowd in Minneapolis. Gobert posited after the game that the club needed to improve its communication on the floor.

“It doesn’t take much energy to talk,” Gobert offered. “You just gotta want to do it. We’re not there yet. Hopefully, you know, we’re gonna get there soon, and we’re gonna learn.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • One big issue for the Timberwolves‘ new jumbo-sized starting lineup has been its transition defense, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Starting two nominal centers in the frontcourt, Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns, could be part of the trouble. Hines notes that the team is permitting opposing clubs to score 21 fast-break points per game, which is the worst such average in the NBA. “We have to understand what our flaws are and how we have to cover them,” head coach Chris Finch acknowledged. “Such as, we may not be the fastest of foot from end line to end line, but we’ve got to make a better effort.” 
  • A huge sharpshooting night for Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons on Monday serves as an indicator that Portland’s hot 4-0 start to the 2022/23 season has nearly as much to do with the newly-revamped club’s role players as it does with the constant brilliance of point guard Damian Lillard, opines Jason Quick of The Athletic. Simons connected on his first eight straight shots, which included six triples, to help Portland blow out the Nuggets 135-110.
  • Lillard has been a big part of the team’s undefeated start. As such, the Trail Blazers guard has taken an early leap in the NBA’s MVP race, per Cole Huff of The Athletic. His odds have risen from +6600 to +2500.