Separated by a season or three in college, the Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis and Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins nonetheless share unusual skills for such big men and a sense of fraternity.

All three attended the University of Kentucky — albeit at different times — and on at least one occasion have returned to Lexington in summer to play pickup games on the same floor.

“They’re fun, they’re a lot of fun when you get to go against the best of the best in the league,” Towns said. “That’s why we’re here in the NBA, because we love playing the best, the most elite competition in the world. To be able to go there and step into one gym against each other is pretty cool.”

Towns recalls multiple occasions the three have played together in summer. Davis remembers only one, during Towns’ lone collegiate season on his way to being the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft.

“Three players make a name for themselves in the NBA, some great games,” Davis said. “Everybody has gotten better, myself, DeMarcus and Karl all have gotten better since then. I can only imagine how it’d be now.”

Davis will start for the Western Conference at next Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans, his adopted hometown. Cousins will come off the bench for the West as one of its seven reserves. Towns will play in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge, awaiting the day soon when he joins them in Sunday’s marquee game.

They never played on the same Kentucky team — Cousins left in 2010, Davis played one season in 2011-12 and Towns one season in 2014-15 — but they consider themselves united in a way, cut from the same swath of Kentucky-blue cloth.

“It’s a brotherhood,” Towns said. “No matter if you were the star player to the last player on the bench, there’s a journey you have to go through and it’s the same journey. No one will understand unless you’re a player there.”

All three have been tempered by the crucible that is Kentucky basketball, forged by a fanatical spectator base and coach John Calipari’s demanding expectations.

“Cal preaches family, so you just stick with that for the rest of your career no matter where you are,” said Davis, a No. 1 overall pick himself. “When you see guys who played at Kentucky, you already have that connection with them even when you don’t know them.”

All three are just the latest in a history that goes back generations.

“I’ve talked to alums from the 1980s and you both feel like you have the same story,” Towns said. “The fan base is absolutely wild, the lifestyle is like being a rock star and the trials and tribulations are second to none. It’s amazing the experience you have being a Kentucky Wildcat. No one institution will give you that.”

They also possess shooting, passing and playmaking not found in big men, and, as odds would have it, all from the same university.

“Every list you put together of the most talented five or six big guys in this league, all three of those guys are going to be on it,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. “I would imagine those would be some pretty good pickups games and if you mix in some other alums, you could have a pretty good NBA game.”

Thibodeau was asked if Calipari has developed three uniquely skilled big men or has been able to recruit the best of the best.

“The answer is probably both,” Thibodeau said. “He has gotten great players and they sort of have that tradition now. When you look at Cousins, Davis and of course Karl, that’s a lot of talent.”

Short takes

Beef between Knicks, Oakley

 

NBA fans couldn’t help themselves on Twitter after former New York Knicks great Charles Oakley was handcuffed, arrested and hauled out of Madison Square Garden during a Knicks-Clippers game Wednesday night.

After firing the Garden’s security chief, Knicks owner James Dolan in a Friday radio interview called Oakley abusive and accused him of having an “agenda” when Oakley bought tickets and made a rare Garden appearance. He sat just rows behind Dolan, with whom he has had an ongoing feud.

Dolan also said Oakley was banned from Madison Square Garden, if perhaps only temporarily.

One person tweeted that the whole thing befuddled Knicks fans because it has been so long since they’ve seen anyone put up a fight in the Garden.

Former Wolf Williams joins Cavs

Former Wolves No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams is back with former teammate Kevin Love and the two are headed to Target Center on Tuesday.

Williams signed with Cleveland on Thursday after he was released by Miami on Monday.

Williams already has played with the Wolves, Sacramento, New York, Miami and now the Cavaliers in six NBA seasons.

“It’s awesome,” he told reporters after playing for the defending NBA champs Thursday in Oklahoma City. “I haven’t been on a team with a winning record since I’ve been in the NBA, I don’t think. It’s definitely a different feel. It’s my first day, but you can feel the energy as soon as you walk into the locker room and everybody’s ready to play. That’s just the championship mentality everyone has here.”

Wolves’ Week Ahead

Sunday: 2:30 p.m. vs. Chicago

Tuesday: 7 p.m. vs. Cleveland

Wednesday: 8 p.m. at Denver

Sun. FSN; Tue. NBA TV, FSN; Wed. FSN

Player to watch: Kevin Love, Cavaliers

Sidelined by back spasms when the Wolves visited Cleveland two weeks ago, he returns to Target Center on Tuesday before he makes his fourth All-Star Game appearance — his first as a Cavalier — in New Orleans next weekend.

Voices

“I got lost earlier, but I finally found the locker room.”

Newest Timberwolf Lance Stephenson on his first game day at Target Center last week, when he couldn’t find the locker room in the morning but played the entire fourth quarter in a Wednesday victory over Toronto.

Twitter: @JerryZgoda, E-mail: jzgoda@startribune.com