WASHINGTON — From the moment Karl-Anthony Towns couldn't get up in the third quarter of Monday's loss to the Wizards, the Timberwolves franchise has held its collective breath.
They got somewhat encouraging news in the immediate aftermath of the injury, which the team announced was a right calf strain and seemingly not something more serious.
But the tests Towns had Tuesday revealed the team will still have to stay afloat a significant chunk of time with him out. He will miss several weeks of action, the Wolves said in a news release. One source said a potential timeline would be four to six weeks, but that is not definite.
"An MRI taken today at Mayo Clinic Square by Dr. Kelechi Okoroha on Towns confirmed a right calf strain," the release read. "He will be sidelined indefinitely and reassessed in several weeks. Further updates to his progress will be issued when available."
Towns fell in the third quarter Monday as he was trying to get back on defense. The calf strain was a non-contact injury, and Towns needed help from center Rudy Gobert and head athletic trainer Gregg Farnam in getting to the locker room. Towns couldn't put weight on his right leg.
"Just another chapter... Jackie's Son will be back soon," Towns tweeted, referencing his late mother, Jacqueline.
The injury is a new one for Towns, who has dealt with knee, ankle and wrist problems in recent seasons. Now the question for the Wolves is how they will manage with him out for an extended period.
"We're going to have to look at what our options are with who else is available at that point," coach Chris Finch said Monday. "We'll just have to figure that out."
The Wolves tend to struggle offensively when Towns is off the floor. Their offensive rating is 107.9 points per 100 possessions when Towns doesn't play. That would rank third worst in the NBA. Their offensive rating is 111.5 when he plays, which would rank 17th and is also their current overall offensive rating. The Wolves have had a better defensive rating with Towns off the floor (107.1) compared with on it (112.4).
Towns has struggled shooting from outside of late and is hitting just 33% from three-point range. He is averaging 20.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. He is on pace to set a career high in assists with Gobert in the fold as Towns often looks for Gobert off the dribble.
"We all got to raise our level," Gobert said. "He's a great player, so you can't really replace him, but every single one of us is going to have to give more and it's going to be hard. We don't have a choice. We got to keep fighting."
Towns has traditionally been durable, and has taken pride in playing a lot of games in his career.
The two-time All-NBA selection didn't miss a game in his first three seasons. He played in 77 in his fourth season before missing significant time for the first stretch of his career in 2019-20, his fifth season. Towns missed 29 of 64 games of the pandemic-shortened season because of a knee injury, wrist injury and an illness.
The following season he missed 22 of 72 games because of more wrist problems and an extended absence from COVID-19. He played in 74 games last season before playing in all 21 so far this season before Monday's injury.
Towns' absence from the lineup has often meant disaster for the Wolves. In games he has missed, the Wolves are 17-47. His absence now will be a test of this team's resilience, especially as it deals with injuries to other key contributors.
One solution for Wednesday's game against Memphis would be to insert Kyle Anderson into the starting lineup at the four, or power forward position. Another could be to slot Naz Reid alongside Gobert.
Even if the Wolves are successful with Towns out, the injury still puts a pause on the development of the Towns and Gobert partnership, which will have to resume when Towns returns.
Towns isn't the only injured or ailing Wolves player, as Taurean Prince (shoulder), Jordan McLaughlin (left calf strain) and Jaden McDaniels (illness) have all missed time of late. None is expected to be out long term, and the Wolves could use all the help they can get in the mean time.