SAN FRANCISCO – The entire time Karl-Anthony Towns was out, there was little doubt what Naz Reid's role was going to be. Reid would slot in as the backup center behind Rudy Gobert, start when Gobert was unable to play and sometimes even share the floor with Gobert.
But when Towns returned, it created a question for Timberwolves coach Chris Finch: what would happen to Reid's minutes?
Earlier in the season, Reid played diminished minutes or sometimes not at all when Towns and Gobert were healthy. That was long ago, however, and when Towns returned Wednesday, Finch played Reid over 25 minutes. Reid played alongside both Towns and Gobert, with Finch sticking to a two-center lineup at almost all times against the Hawks.
Reid turned in one of his best performances of the season with a team-high 26 points and eight rebounds.
"As a player, when you already believe in yourself, and then you have that belief from your teammates, the head coach, the coaching staff, especially from the fans, it's like the sky is the limit for you," Reid said. "You can go out there and do what you do that people might not have seen before."
If there was one message Towns and Finch made clear after that victory over Atlanta, it was that Reid needed to continue to play. He has been playing too well for the team to relegate him to a spot role or no minutes at all.
"We got to find a way to make the two-big lineup work," Finch said. "It has to be who we are in these last eight games. We have the flexibility to go a lot of different directions. But when a guy's playing this well, he deserves to be out there in some form or fashion. It's my job to figure it out."
That may require the Wolves to get creative on the defensive end of the floor, and Reid will have to manage playing different coverages when he's playing alongside Gobert and Towns. But if Finch has reiterated one point over the last week, he has said whoever is playing well is going to play, regardless of lineup fit. If Reid is playing well, he will play, and the Wolves will figure it out from there.
"It's going to be a great different look to give teams, especially in the playoffs — if one thing's not working, we can instantly go to another thing and another coverage," Towns said. "Like Finch said, I agree 100 percent, Naz Reid has to find minutes in our rotation. He's playing too well, too consistent to not be in the rotation and he deserves the minutes."
Finch said Anthony Edwards was going to go through his pregame warmups and see how he felt prior to playing Sunday. Ultimately, Edwards played and was in the starting lineup after missing three games because of a sprained right ankle.
He also played despite an illness that kept him out of practice in recent days. Sunday was the first time the Wolves had their full complement of players since before Towns went out in November.
Finch mentioned there were still some restrictions on players coming back.
"It's great to have all these guys back finally," Finch said. "We're still working through restrictions on different guys so that's a bit of a puzzle, too. So it doesn't give us like complete freedom out there to play always as the game unfolds."