MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns has heard his name connected to the Timberwolves for the upcoming NBA draft for more than a month now, with the Kentucky big man seemingly destined to land in Minnesota on Thursday night.
Even after a report surfaced Monday that the Timberwolves have already informed Towns that he will be the No. 1 overall pick, he wasn’t taking anything for granted.
“If I had a promise I would go start eating ice cream and getting fat,” Towns joked to The Associated Press on Monday evening. “There is absolutely no promise at all. Right now I’m just trying to see where I’ll be playing. I have no idea.”
The Wolves have the first pick for the first time in franchise history, the product of a miserable 16-66 season and some lottery luck that finally fell in their favor.
The Wolves spent all last week hosting the top prospects in the class at their shiny new practice facility, including Duke center Jahlil Okafor, Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay, a point guard who spent last season playing in China. The final visit of the week came from Towns, who dined with Timberwolves president and coach Flip Saunders and owner Glen Taylor on Friday and then went through a workout in front of Wolves officials on Saturday.
The Timberwolves were the only team for which Towns held an individual workout, and he said Monday he enjoyed meeting officials and getting a brief tour of downtown Minneapolis.
“Flip Saunders is a great coach and a great guy. Glen Taylor is the same way. He’s a great human being,” Towns said. “We just talked more about how do I feel about basketball and just about life, just trying to learn more about my personality.”
Towns was reached during a tour with American Express to promote the Home Court Advantage Rookie Draft Desk Series, a set of four videos with Okafor, Russell and Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky that “gives fans a chance to see us more as people than basketball players” and shows their best moments on the court as well.
Towns had plenty of those in his lone season at Kentucky, helping the Wildcats reach the Final Four. His ability to play both power forward and center, his defensive prowess and ability to hit free throws helped move him to the top of the draft boards.
The tradition-rich Los Angeles Lakers hold the No. 2 pick, but Towns said he had no hesitation going to an organization that hasn’t made the playoffs in 11 years and has never been to the NBA Finals.
“It doesn’t matter to me where I play,” Towns said. “It matters what you do at the place you play at. It doesn’t matter how successful or how unsuccessful a team is. It can all change with one pick.”
The long-struggling Wolves are starving for a player unafraid of coming to the frigid climate to join a team that has been forever rebuilding. But with reigning rookie of the year Andrew Wiggins, point guard Ricky Rubio expected back healthy and that $25 million practice facility, the hope in Minnesota is that success is finally near.
“We want to give these guys a chance to develop and develop at a more rapid rate, and I believe that we’ve proven as an organization that we can develop players and you look at how Wiggins developed from when we got him to where he was at the end of the year, and we’ll continue to try to do the same with who we take at the No. 1 pick,” Saunders said after the Wolves won the lottery.
Taylor said after missing on high draft picks like Derrick Williams, Wesley Johnson and Jonny Flynn in recent seasons, finding a motivated player who was hungry to improve was one of the top priorities in making the decision.
“I just think in the past we had some players who had a great college career but didn’t step it up afterwards,” Taylor said. “We have to be really cautious that doesn’t happen to us. For us to win, we have to have some people like KG, who was just never satisfied with how good he was and always wanted to be better.”
Taylor, of course, was referring to veteran Kevin Garnett, who returned to the Timberwolves in a midseason trade in February and is expected to sign another contract in July.
“To maybe possibly even play with him would be a great experience if I’m given the opportunity, the privilege and the honor,” Towns said.
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