Timberwolves rookie Karl-Anthony Towns' introduction to the NBA — and vice versa — delivered this past week in Las Vegas just what his team hoped from the draft's No. 1 pick: a good bit of everything.
But four games there also cautioned it could be some time before he'll use his gluteus to the maximus.
Towns demonstrated the ability to score inside and out, defend the pick-and-roll and block shots and the kind of court vision and passing skills maybe found only in a big man whose coaching father trained him to play like a guard, no matter his size.
He did so particularly in a 20-point, 10-rebound, three-block, two-foul performance in Wednesday's loss to Portland in the first game of the Vegas competition's tournament.
But his play against summertime competition also reminded what the Wolves already know.
"He's 19," Wolves summer-league coach Ryan Saunders said.
Yes, Towns is just 19 and has a body whose development — particularly from the waist down — trails his advanced big-man skills. You look at him and all he might lack is a bigger behind.
Don't worry, though: It is coming.
"I think he sees that guys are a little bit different physically here, and it's not just upper body here in the league," Saunders said. "It's a lot of lower body. Guys will try to move you and push you off your spots. He's going to improve his strength and all that."
Towns promises change will come through work in the weight room and the passing of time. His college coach — Kentucky's John Calipari — sounds incredulous when he reminds everyone how young Towns really is.
"In five years, he's going to be 24," Calipari said. "What? What?"
By then, Towns' body will have been transformed by an NBA weight-training program and by nature, much like former Wolves star Kevin Love came into the league a dough boy and showed up at Wednesday night's ESPY awards looking matinee-idol lean.
"You work hard," Towns said, "but some things come in their own time, too."
Some things come from working on your body and waiting. Some things come by playing smarter. Towns worked on the practice court Monday morning with new teammate Kevin Garnett, who knows a thing or two about a pro game in which Towns deems players are more clever and knowledgeable than what he has faced until now.
"I used my body a lot in college, but here it's more than just banging and see who's stronger," Towns said. "It's more of a crafty game. KG and me, we talked about instead of having me bang my body so much like I did in college and high school, I need to be a little more crafty and save my body for later in the game and later in the week. When you're talking four games in seven days, you've really got to save your body. You can't be going in there trying to bang all day."
One solution: Show off more of a pick-and-pop game and three-point shooting skills that Calipari forbid at Kentucky because he wanted Towns to soothe NBA scouts' concerns that he couldn't score around the basket well enough.
"He's got both," Saunders said of Towns' post-up and perimeter games.
Opposing teams in Vegas sent two and three defenders at him consistently, attempting to get the ball out of his hands. Often that didn't work because of his ability to see the extra defenders coming and find moving teammates with precise passes.
Saunders calls Towns' passing "exceptional," even if it doesn't always result in an assist.
"The stuff he does doesn't always show up in the boxscore," Saunders said. "He's getting trapped. Not every time, but it shows the respect he's getting in this league already."
That kind of attention is nothing new for a player who calculates he lost seven games in the past five years of high school and college ball and now has lost three times in six days as a professional.
"I've been triple- and double-teamed my whole life," Towns said. "It's a blessing and honor to be looked on like that as a player. I use that as an advantage and let the double-team come to me because I know I'm going to get a good pass out of it."