MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Timberwolves’ ambitious experiment of matching two big guys together backfired when Karl-Anthony Towns missed 52 games due to a damaged calf muscle during Rudy Gobert’s season-opening game.
Once Towns got back for the playoffs, the evaluation was finally given new life. The Timberwolves, who lost in the opening phase to defending NBA champion Denver, are now counting on Gobert being more at ease in the second year of his contract and Towns maintaining health as they attempt again with the same starting lineup and nearly the whole rotation.
The weight of the exorbitant price the state of Minnesota committed in their deal with Utah — an equivalent of a total of five first-round instruments, including draftee Walker Kessler in 2022 — hanging over his every move made Gobert’s absorption into the team far from easy.
Gobert had his lowest 2-point shooting % and lowest rebounding average in five years. He had not averaged less than 2 rebounds per game since he became a rookie in 2013–2014.
The Timberwolves struggled to adapt to his pick-and-roll offense and rim-protection strength as the chemistry on the floor was frequently shaky on both ends. Then, in the stressful final regular-season game, he lost his composure and struck teammate Kyle Anderson, which resulted in him being sent home during halftime and disqualified from their opening play-in game.
As coach Chris Finch sought to play him without as well as with Towns throughout their first-round matchup against the Denver Nuggets, there were encouraging signs. At his preseason press conference on Thursday at Target Center, President of the Basketball Operations Department Tim Connelly acknowledged he anticipated the partnership to be awkward at first and praised Finch for his subtle touch.
At the World Cup, Gobert was a member of the French national squad. During the training procedure towards the end of June, he claimed to feel “the best I’ve ever felt.” He is now eager to begin again with Minnesota.
Friday marks the start of training camp, and Finch and the coaches will place a heavy priority on the Gobert-Towns combo once more. Their focus should be on strengthening their relationship with standout guard Anthony Edwards.
With a maximum contract extension in hand and even bigger expectations, Edwards, who thrived while playing for the United States squad during the World Cup, will begin his fourth season this year. On Thursday, he dismissed it, claiming that forward Jaden McDaniels was the team’s best asset due to his potential while attempting to draw attention to Towns, a ninth-year pro.
Anderson, a versatile forward and team-builder for the Timberwolves, is a critical player who is back. His defense, leadership, and hustle are just what this club needs to go past the opening round of the playoffs. Anderson said on Thursday that while he is now well, there were some worrying moments for him throughout the summer regarding the durability of his career. Anderson sustained an eye injury against Denver that required surgery and held him out of the pivotal Game 5.