Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell, both out of the NBA's health and safety protocols, took part in shootaround Wednesday morning, did a post-shootaround workout after and, Wednesday evening, were both in the starting lineup against Oklahoma City at Target Center.

It was Towns' first game since Dec. 21 and Russell's first since Dec. 23. It was just the 11th time this season coach Chris Finch was able to go with his preferred starting lineup of Towns, Russell, Anthony Edwards, Jarred Vanderbilt and Patrick Beverley. The last time this starting five was together was Dec. 15.

Talking after shootaround, Towns sounded like a man ready to return.

"I've always been a person who likes to be thrown into the fire,'' he said. "So I expect nothing less. I think we have a good plan for tonight.''

For Towns, it has to be a matter of good riddance to the year 2021. Towns caught COVID-19 in January, then got it again in December.

"I got COVID to start 2021 and I end 2021 with COVID,'' Towns said. "The difference was I was very much sicker the last time. I was less sick this time. It was the timing that was awful. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, you're supposed to be with my family. I couldn't make that happen. New Year came, was in bed. I'm just happy to be out of it finally. I missed enough holidays. I just want to come back to the game of basketball.''

Towns said he lost 50 pounds in his first bout, about 15 the second time around. Thus, he said he feels better prepared to return from the illness this time. He was able to lift weights during his recovery and said he didn't lose much strength.

What's important is that he's back.

"I wanted to get back to work,'' he said. "I've been missing work, every day. I'm tired of watching Timberwolves games from home. So, just really glad to be back, be with these guys, be with my teammates. I missed them tremendously. The game of basketball is a big part of my life.''

A different team

Towns said he was impressed with the way his teammates played while so many players were lost to the league's health and safety protocols.

"They played hard, they played great,'' Towns said. "They were balling. We all could see that. Nathan Knight, I mean, he's fantastic. Jaylen Nowell, he solidified himself. … Jake Layman, I think, has played amazing. Everyone has stepped up."

On this, Finch agreed with Towns.

"Some of our guys who had played low minutes or no minutes played really well for us in stretches at times,'' Finch said. "I think that gives us good confidence in those guys, not that we didn't have it anyway. But they went out and played, and played against a lot of starting units, too.

"I think a perfect example of that is, look at Taurean [Prince's] last performance [a 7-for-10, 17-point game against the L.A. Clippers]. If he can build upon that, that makes us better. Gives us a better bench. Jaden McDaniels has really taken a step forward through this. Naz [Reid] has put together some really consistent games, the last two in particular. Jaylen Nowell had cracked the rotation and played well in short minutes before the COVID crisis for us. But he's now lengthened those minutes and continued to play really well.''


  • His 10-day contract with the Wolves having expired, center Greg Monroe agreed to a similar deal with the Washington Wizards.