Fresh from a holiday weekend spent at the ocean or in a parade through downtown Apple Valley by horse-drawn trailer, newest Timberwolves Karl-Anthony Towns and Tyus Jones went to work Monday, their first real day as professionals on the NBA job.
Towns spent time with college coach John Calipari and relaxed at the New Jersey shore not far from his childhood home over the weekend, while Jones rode on a parade entry that bore a banner declaring him a 2015 NCAA champion at Duke as well as “Apple Valley’s Favorite Son.”
Ten days after Jones led Towns on a tour of Minneapolis’ skyway system, the two 19-year-olds olds went about the business of getting to know each other as teammates on the court.
“The chemistry is built already,” Towns said. “We’re very tight already. Ever since the draft, we’ve always stayed in contact, texted every day, just really hanging out a lot. It helps that we also had great high-school careers and we were able to play with and against each other in all-star games. I think the chemistry is already built. On the court, you’ll see the chemistry is already built. We’re seeing each other like we’ve never seen each other.”
Each player reported Monday for the first day of summer-league play with a Wolves team that will scrimmage Wednesday in a free “Summer Showcase” at Target Center and begin Las Vegas play Friday there against D’Angelo Russell, the draft’s No. 2 overall pick, and the Los Angeles Lakers.
They will be joined by Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng — each missed Monday’s first workout because of flight delays — for practices this week at the team’s new Mayo Clinic Square facility and by Zach LaVine and Adreian Payne for both Minneapolis practices and Las Vegas games.
Monday’s work started the process of adapting to a game that’s played at a faster pace, with bigger and stronger players.
“I’m a rookie,” said Towns, the first player selected in last month’s NBA draft. “This is my first practice as an NBA player, ever. You want to get as much knowledge as you can … a lot of knowledge for me to be the player I want to be and the player I need to be.”
Both will learn from players — Dieng and Muhammad are entering their third pro seasons, Wiggins, LaVine and Payne their second — who have been through all this before.
“It’s going to be good, very valuable just because you’re in the same situation with them,” Jones said. “You have nothing to do but get better: getting used to the rules, the basketball, the pace. It’s a quicker-paced game, and I think that plays into my favor, being able to get out and run more and make quicker decisions … Anytime you play, anytime you compete, it’ll help you out.”
Towns, Jones and their summer-league teammates will practice all week and then play at least five games in Las Vegas, all under the coaching of Wolves assistant Ryan Saunders.
“Their intelligence,” Saunders said about the two new draft picks. “They’ll definitely add to our basketball intelligence. KAT and Tyus, they don’t have to be told twice where to be and actually they don’t need to be told once a lot of times. They have a really good feel for the game. They’re in the correct positions and defensively, they’re definitely advanced.
“One year in college is definitely a shock for a lot of guys and last year we saw with Andrew and Zach, it took them some time to get comfortable with things. We expect a learning curve with everyone, but today we were definitely impressed with what these guys can bring.”