NEW YORK – A day before the Timberwolves add the next piece of their shiny future, Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns on Wednesday still talked about a new life in Minnesota in hypotheticals even as he mused about joining reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, Kevin Garnett, Ricky Rubio and others there.
Barring a seismic shift before Thursday night’s NBA draft, the Wolves are expected to select Towns with the first overall No. 1 pick in franchise history. They will do so at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, not too far from where Towns was born and raised in New Jersey.
“This is like a family reunion,” he said, smiling at familiar faces gathered around him during an interview session in a Manhattan hotel ballroom. “I’m home again.”
Towns played it straight and not the least bit presumptuous Wednesday, talking about a night for which he has waited much of his life almost as if he doesn’t know whether he’ll be selected first, second or 60th.
He visited Minneapolis for two days last weekend, having dinner with Wolves owner Glen Taylor and basketball boss Flip Saunders, working out in a session Garnett attended and exploring a city he had never seen.
And he knows Wiggins, having roomed with him at the 2013 Nike Hoops Summit when each played for the international team in Portland, Ore.
On Wednesday, he was asked about the Wolves and Wiggins and the What Ifs … or the What Will Be’s.
“You know what? If you were blessed and honored with the privilege to play with a talent like that, you’re just thinking about how explosive the team really could be,” he said when asked about uniting with Wiggins in Minneapolis. “Not only is Andrew Wiggins explosive, but as talented as he is you also have Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine. You’re talking about some really explosive players. That team is going to be really good, and if I’m blessed and honored and privileged to be on that team, then I can’t wait to add my contribution.”
Towns said he’d happily and gratefully play in cold and snowy Minnesota within moments after the Wolves won last month’s draft lottery and Towns’ beloved New York Knicks dropped to fourth. He saw Minneapolis for the first time in warm, summery sunshine when the team brought him and his father, Karl Sr., to town late Friday afternoon to end a week in which top prospects Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay also visited.
“I thought it was a great city, I thought it was very cosmopolitan,” he said. “I just had a ball. I had fun being there, checking out a city I’ve never been to. I love traveling, so it was awesome for me.”
He met Garnett briefly during the visit. On Wednesday, an enterprising reporter asked Towns about that 20-year veteran who’s expected to re-sign with the Wolves as a free agent next month by referring to the rookie and the future Hall of Famer as teammates.
“Well, I’m not his teammate,” Towns said. “If I was honored and privileged to be part of the Minnesota Timberwolves and possibly be his teammate, just to learn under a legend and see how he was able to become a legend, the work he put in … it’d be amazing to get to know what he has done to win a championship. That’s the biggest thing. He’s a winner. I just want to be like him in that aspect.”
Towns expects about 40 family members and friends to attend the draft, not more than 40 miles where he grew up on a back yard court that his father, a pharmaceutical-company employee and moonlighting high school basketball coach, built in phases as family finances allowed.
“I’m born here, I’m raised here, I have a lot of family here,” Towns said. “It will be fun to see close friends and family enjoy one of the best moments of my life.”
Towns drove by his old home not long ago but didn’t peek over the fence his father built to see whether the same hoop is still on the plot of ground where his route to Thursday’s draft started.
“You know what?” he said when asked why he should be taken first overall. “It’s not about why I feel or why I believe I should be. I just know I’ve put a lot of work in at the gym. I’ve put in a lot of hours. I’ve done a lot of quality work, working on my body and my craft. I know no matter where I go, I’ll have the confidence in me that I will be helping my teammates the most.”
Towns will share Thursday’s memories with Okafor, who is expected to be drafted second by the Los Angeles Lakers or third by Philadelphia. The two have been cellphone friends since they met on the same recruiting trip to Duke when they were high school sophomores.
“We’ve been texting each other throughout high school and college,” Okafor said. “We’re good friends. We’re pretty much going through the same process, pretty much in the same shoes. I’m excited for him.”
Towns is the third player raised in New Jersey to be drafted first or second in the past four years. Cleveland took Kyrie Irving first in 2011, and Charlotte drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist second in 2012 — “That’s a great list right there,” Towns said — and now he completes the trifecta, headed happily to the tundra — perhaps — and a place he imagines can’t be that much colder than his native New Jersey.
“I can see myself spending a long time anywhere,” he said when asked whether he could envision a life in Minnesota when he visited there. “I could in Alaska, for all I know.”