Top Stories

Q&A: Karl-Anthony Towns doesn't tolerate disrespect

Minnesota's star big man opens up on his leadership style, other NBA centers and bouncing back from COVID-19 again.

Karl-Anthony Towns says there are two things he doesn’t tolerate as a leader: Being late or disrespectful.

The first returns did not bode well for Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns.

Not only did Towns not make the NBA All-Star game as a starter. Based on votes among fans (50%), players (25%) and media members (25%), Towns ranked seventh in frontcourt players behind LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Paul George and Rudy Gobert.

Yet, the Timberwolves fully expect Towns will make his third All-Star appearance when the reserves are announced next Thursday, which are determined by the league’s 30 head coaches.

“He’s had an All-Star caliber year,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said. “He still has an opportunity to make that and I’m confident that he will.”

The reason? The Timberwolves (24-24) enter Friday’s game (9 ET, League Pass) against the Phoenix Suns (38-9) with Towns ranking third among the NBA’s centers in points per game (24.3) and 3-point shooting (40.8%). The seventh-year big man is the only NBA player averaging more than 20 points per game while shooting at least 50% from the field and 40% from deep.

“He’s still putting up great numbers; an All-Star level year for sure,” Finch said. “Defensively, he’s been very impactful. He’s rounded out his game for us.” caught up with Towns about his game and more following the Timberwolves 124-115 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Thursday at Chase Center. Towns touched base on his performances, leadership, how he measures up against other bigs and how he bounced back from the COVID-19 virus for the second time.

Editor’s Note: The following 1-on-1 conversation has been condensed and edited.

Karl-Anthony Towns has been the scoring leader for the Wolves, who are currently 8th in the West. How would you evaluate your season so far?

Towns: Just older and more experienced. I think I can offer a lot more insight. In a way, it’s a bad thing. But it’s a good thing for me. I have a lot of experience in finding ways to lose games. I try to tell these guys from my experience how games have been lost and games have been won. So I try to utilize my experience and help them to find ways to win. I’m also trying to be a voice of reason and being a leader that they need. Not every leader has to be the most ‘rah, rah.’ We have enough players like that. It’s about finding our leadership group and trying to have all of us be in our right spots and control the locker room as best as possible and keep everyone happy with the game.

Chris praised you for knowing when to call guys out and when to stay quiet. How do you determine which route to take?

Experience teaches you. It’s a gut feeling. I understand when things need to be said and don’t need to be said. The game will humble you. It’s something I’ve believed in for years. I received that from Kenny Payne from Kentucky. Sometimes, you don’t need to be ‘rah, rah’ with players because the game will humble them. It’s about supporting them and guiding them in the right direction so the game doesn’t humble them too much.

What are the non-negotiables where you think it is better to get on guys?

Not being late or disrespectful are my biggest two rules. I don’t play with that. These coaches work just as hard as us. They put in a lot of time for us. So I don’t tolerate disrespect to the coaches and the work they put in for the game plans. I also don’t tolerate being late. Everyone has to be held accountable. We all have to depend on each other to be where we need to be.

Chris called you “one of the most efficient players in the NBA.” What has gone into that?

All of my workouts have been based on efficiency. So I’ve been utilizing all of my workouts. All of my workouts are never been based on makes. It’s been based on makes in a row. So, really focusing on my efficiency has been something I’ve been focusing on since I’ve been at Kentucky and high school. It’s been my M.O. I’m fortunate I’ve come to the NBA having the same success.

Karl-Anthony Towns is out to prove he is the best big man shooter ever.

What do you do in your workouts?

A lot of times with threes, it’s making 10 in a row from each spot. Deep threes, it’s five to eight in a row. There’s a lot in a row and mixing up levels, too. Threes, twos, hook shots, layups. Not too much I’ll give, but the efficiency is baked into every single thing I do in my workouts. Every shot is recorded. I’m a very scientific man when it comes to that. I know how many shots I’ve taken and I know how much I’ve missed. I know which steps were inefficient.

So the All-Star reserves will be announced next week. How do you look at your body of work compared to the rest of the bigs in the league?

I think we’re all in different situations. I love my team. I love the situation I’m in. I love the guys we have in this locker room. I love the character we have in this locker room. Me, Jokic, Joel, Rudy, you can go down the list of bigs, we’re all in different situations and have different criteria to meet on what is being great. I think that certain people need to score more. I think certain people need to facilitate and do a lot more. Everyone has different positions. So I’m just trying to do what I can for this team to win.

You went into Health and Safety Protocols after having to do that last year as well. How did this experience compare to the first time?

The first time was scarier for me. It’s the first time I got it. There’s the amount of COVID that I had and knowing about my mom [passing]. I was in that situation. It was rough. It’s not just mentally draining. It was draining physically, obviously. I had a bad case. But the second time, same thing. I got it again and it wasn’t the friendliest to me. But I have that comfort that science is a little better and was able to catch it early. I have that feeling that if I made it through the first round, I can make it through the second one. There’s not as much anxiety. I was still nervous and understood anything could go wrong. But I was very optimistic. I took my vitamins and did my best to stay hydrated.

What was the process with adjusting back to the games?

It was much easier. The first time I got it in January, I lost 50 pounds. That was not very fun. This time, I only lost 18-20. It was easier to get back into the rhythm and get back into playing with not so much lost, compared to the first one. If I was able to get through losing 50 pounds, I could get through losing 20. I felt pretty good. I have a great team and I have a lot of great teammates that made me feel mentally comfortable with coming back.

* * *

Mark Medina is a senior writer/analyst for You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

The NBA and its teams have a new paid fellowship program for undergraduate and graduate students. The program will offer HBCU students the opportunity to gain real-life insights and professional experience around the business and operations of basketball. Want to join the NBA Family? Apply today