When Giannis Antetokounmpo was sitting at the podium with the Larry O’Brien trophy last July, he said, “It’s easy to go somewhere and go win a championship with somebody else. It’s easy… I could go to a super team and just do my part and win a championship. But this is the hard way to do it and this is the way to do it and we did it.”
Karl-Anthony Towns can relate.
Towns hasn’t won anything of note in Minnesota yet, but he sounded like a guy who thinks like Antetokounmpo when talking about his future to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.
Towns likens staying in Minnesota with his decision to continue to play for the Dominican Republic national team. He said he’s had opportunities to leave the Dominicans, his mother’s homeland, and reclassify to play with Team USA, which could use a talented big man. But that would be the easy route in his eyes.
“I like taking the hard route. I like going the more rewarding route,” he said. “I love being with the Dominican Republic national team. There’s a lot of things they haven’t done, and I’m able to possibly change that. The challenge is what I’ve always strived for.”
Towns is on the watch list for a lot of teams searching for the next disgruntled superstar pushing for a trade — not that Towns has ever said anything publicly to suggest he wants out. However, other teams see him with just the one playoff appearance through five years, the five head coaches he’s had, the lack of stability in the front office, including the most recent change that had Towns Tweeting “WTF,” and the lack of quality players around him through those years. It’s a recipe for an unhappy superstar.
Towns is focused on being the change he wants to see, focused on returning to a superstar level of play after a couple of rough seasons on and off the court. He’s battled a series of injuries, was hit by a drunk driver, had COVID-19, but the most significant blow was that disease taking the life of his mother, with whom he was very close. Towns has talked openly about the mental health struggles he had after that loss, and how basketball lost its joy for him.
This season, however, Towns sounds like a player who has rekindled that joy, has gotten his body in better shape, and is ready to reclaim his place among the top centers in the game. His goal is to lead Minnesota back to the playoffs.
Do that, watch the growth of Anthony Edwards next to him, and maybe there is no reason to leave. On the other hand, if the Timberwolves fall short of those goals, well, other teams are watching.