As Jaden McDaniels was speaking with the media following Thursday's Timberwolves practice, a voice bellowed from the other end of the practice court. The voice was Karl-Anthony Towns, who shouted "first team" as loud as he could for the cameras and microphones to hear. Towns was campaigning for his teammate to earn All-Defense accolades.

It got the normally stoic McDaniels to crack a smile.

"It's exciting just to see him back on the court," McDaniels said.

Towns wasn't practicing in full with the team, but he did go through what coach Chris Finch called "live action" work while the Timberwolves held practice. This meant Towns was working with player development coaches doing drills either against no or very little defensive resistance. It marked a step in the right direction as Towns tries to return from a right calf injury that has kept him out since Nov. 28.

"It's not super intense or anything like that, it's just more trying to get him comfortable feeling where he is right now in that," Finch said.

A return for Towns isn't imminent, and there's still no time frame for it. Finch said it would likely take a "handful of more days" like Thursday before the Towns would face more intense workouts.

"He can feel like he's got the bit in his teeth right now," Finch said. "He probably wants to do a little bit more than he's actually allowed. That's good."

But for as eager as Towns may be to get back on the floor, the reality is with a month left in the regular season, the Wolves still don't know when they're getting an All-NBA player back.

Finch was asked if there would come a point in time where there wouldn't be enough games left on the calendar to make Towns' return worth it. Would there be a moment that it might take him too long to get re-accustomed to the speed of the game and playing alongside new teammates that it might be detrimental to the Wolves' playoff push?

Aside from the Wolves being completely out of the playoff picture, which is unlikely to happen, Finch dismissed the notion the Wolves would shut Towns down even if he was ready to come back with only a few games left on the schedule. They want to see him playing again.

"Regardless of what happens between here and the rest of the season, getting KAT with this group is such a priority just to see what we have," Finch said. "I wouldn't say it's not worth it, unless we were to fall completely out of the race. But even at that point, we need to discover for offseason evaluation, tweaking, strategy, game plan, whatever it might be, we got to see what this thing looks like."

Finch added: "Listen, it's hard to tell an all-NBA player they're not playing."

Finch's comments strike to the heart of where the Wolves are at this point in the season with Towns' recovery.

Even if Towns does return, will the information the Wolves gain be valuable? Or will the fact that Towns is coming back from injury cloud whatever data they receive? With Towns seemingly still several steps away from playing in a game, that becomes a possibility even if Towns does make it back, and where does the franchise go from there? What kind of moves does it make for next season? Do the Wolves have enough to say the Towns-Gobert partnership can work? Finch said he was seeing signs it could.

"During those games, I think KAT and Rudy had the best chemistry when it comes to a two-man chemistry, … But, to that point, KAT wasn't here for preseason," Finch said. "Hopefully there's enough residual lessons in those games that we can kind of get through early growing pains. My guess is there's going to be early growing pains."

And will that hamper the Wolves' potential playoff run?

For now, McDaniels and Gobert said it was good to see Towns trying to work his way back, and they will welcome him back with open arms if and when he's ready to play again.

"Just trying to keep him connected to what we do, because sometimes it can get long when you get a tough injury like that," Gobert said. "It's easy to drift away. … We just try to keep him engaged and just be positive with him. I'm really excited to have him back with us."

Even if he's not all the way back yet.