NEW YORK – Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns was proud of the fact he had never missed a game in his NBA career. That changed Friday, and the twist for Towns was his absence came as a result of an injury he suffered off the court.
Towns was involved in a car accident Thursday as he was traveling to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in advance of the team's game against the Knicks. As a result, Towns entered the NBA's concussion protocol, causing him to miss Friday's game, coach Ryan Saunders said. It ended Towns' streak of consecutive games played at 303.
Towns was with the team in New York and at the game. Saunders said Towns' timeline for recovery was "day by day." After missing the team's flight because of the accident, Towns took a commercial flight to New York. Saunders said Wolves medical staff examined Towns before his flight and Towns was cleared to fly even though he entered the concussion protocol. He also was set to fly to Milwaukee in advance of the Wolves' game Saturday.
As for the details of the accident, a source told the Star Tribune that Towns was not the driver of the vehicle. Saunders and forward Anthony Tolliver said assistant strength and conditioning coach Kurt Joseph was in the car with Towns. Forward Taj Gibson mentioned he drove by an accident on the highway on his way to catch the flight. He said he later learned Towns was involved in the accident he had seen. Gibson referred to it as a "crazy" crash.
"The first thing I saw him, I ran up on him and gave him a hug because I really drove past the cars, the pileage," Gibson said. "It was a bunch of cars on the side of the freeway, and I was just praying I hope everybody in this wreck is OK. We get to New York and I didn't know he was in it and I'm just happy he's OK."
Gibson said he wasn't sure on which highway the accident happened. Towns' teammates echoed Gibson's thoughts — they were glad Towns wasn't injured worse than he was. The streak was secondary.
"That's most important, that he's healthy and he's doing OK," Andrew Wiggins said. "Because a lot of things could've went wrong, but God was watching over him. So we're happy. We're relieved."
Guard Tyus Jones said the accident put life in perspective for him and the Wolves.
"It just goes to show nothing's promised," Jones said. "Tomorrow isn't promised. Life and things can turn in a matter of seconds in the blink of an eye. Obviously you get in a car and you're not thinking you're going to be in a crash or anything like that. It just puts things in perspective for sure. People need a reminder to just be thankful and grateful for just being able to wake up today."
To return to the floor, Towns must clear the league's concussion protocol and will have to pass a variety of physical tests, including jogging, pedaling a stationary bike and agility work, and get approval from a doctor.
"I'd just like to have him out there because he's a pretty good player," Saunders said. "So the streak, that is something that I think everybody should definitely take note of with Karl's durability and his toughness and how he approaches the game. From a coach's viewpoint, you'd like to have a player like Karl on the floor whenever you can."
Before Friday, that was every night. Now the Wolves wait to see when Towns can make it back.