PORTLAND, ORE. – Young Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns came out of the team’s normal off-day film session late Tuesday afternoon in Portland and saw his father, mother and girlfriend standing in a hotel hallway.
“I knew something had to be going on because I saw my family there, waiting for the door to open,” he said.
That something was word he played his way at age 22 to his first NBA All-Star Game, which is set for Feb. 18 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Western Conference coaches voted seven reserves and chose two Timberwolves — Towns and teammate Jimmy Butler — for the third time in franchise history. They did so for the first time since Kevin Garnett and Sam Cassell played it in the last season the Wolves made the playoffs, 14 years ago.
“It was cool,” Towns said. “They were really excited. I was excited, too. I really enjoyed the moment.”
Towns and Butler will play in the same game, but not necessarily together. In a change of format, Cleveland’s LeBron James and Golden State’s Stephen Curry will each captain a team and alternate choosing players from among eight other players voted by fans, media and players as starters and 14 reserves chosen by conference coaches.
Towns said it doesn’t matter which superstar selects him or in what order he is selected for a process that won’t be televised or made public. The chosen teams will be announced Thursday before TNT’s doubleheader that includes the Wolves-Golden State game as its nightcap.
“I don’t care,” Towns said. “It’s all about being in the game.”
Last season, Towns was a second-year pro who produced flashy statistics and raised his hopes high for All-Star selection midway during a season when his Wolves won only 31 games all year long.
On Tuesday, he said he didn’t much care either way when his team already has won 31 games with 33 still to play.
“I thought I deserved last year — second-year player, I’m young, my first opportunity to make the All-Star team — and I had a lot on it,” he said. “And when I didn’t make it, it deflated the balloon a little bit. This year, I didn’t care. I didn’t even think about it at all. I just wanted us to be the best team we can possibly be and win a lot of games.”
Western Conference coaches picked both Towns and Butler along with other Western Conference selectees Russell Westbrook, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard.
Now that it’s real, Towns reacted differently.
“It’s a huge honor,” he said. “You never think when you’re growing up that you not only are going to make the NBA, but you’re going to be an AllStar. I’m truly blessed with this opportunity.”
This will be Butler’s fourth All-Star Game. He made the East team the first three times when he played for Chicago.
Butler recently said he didn’t care if he was selected and said the way he plays the game — hard and to win — doesn’t fit with the spirit of All-Star Games. He said he had plans to vacation with Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan over All-Star break.
“It’s always great to join your brother on a big stage like that,” Towns said. “… To go there with my teammate makes it even more comfortable, especially when he’s been there multiple times.”
Before Monday’s victory over the Clippers in Los Angeles, Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said both Butler and Towns deserved invitations — and Andrew Wiggins deserved consideration — because of the way they “impact winning” on a team that’s 31-18 and third in the West.
They were chosen over other qualified candidates such as Houston’s Chris Paul, Oklahoma City’s Paul George and the Clippers’ Lou Williams.
Towns said he doesn’t think his and Butler’s presence legitimizes a Wolves team that finally is winning after so many consecutive losing seasons.
“I think our record speaks that we’re on the right track,” Towns said. “We’re doing a great job right now finding ways to win games. That’s the most important thing.
“I don’t really feel like I’m an All-Star. I feel like my team is an All-Star.”