The adrenaline was coursing through everybody’s veins on the night of Oct. 30.
The Timberwolves were visiting the 76ers in Philadelphia and Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid had just been ejected for their involvement in an altercation during the third quarter.
Wolves President Gersson Rosas told the team’s security staff to go get Towns’ family out of the stands and bring them back to the locker room.
“We were in Philly,” Rosas said Monday.
What happened next is likely the way Rosas always will remember Towns’ mother, Jacqueline Cruz-Towns, who died Monday at 59 after a multiple-week battle with COVID-19.
After the tussle, video quickly emerged online of Cruz-Towns leaning over the railing of the tunnel where Embiid was exiting. She was yelling at Embiid, and it likely wasn’t anything pleasant.
“You see a mother who loves her son, is going to defend him from 20 rows up, and it doesn’t matter if she’s outnumbered 20,000 to one,” Rosas said.
Back in the locker room after things cooled down, Rosas said you could see the love the family had for each other and how Cruz-Towns wasn’t going to back down. There were also moments of levity despite the drama that had just unfurled, such as Towns’ former agent, Leon Rose, now president of the Knicks, going back and forth between both locker rooms since he represented both Embiid and Towns.
“[Towns’ father] Karl Sr. was telling her, ‘You have to be respectful. We’re in an away arena.’ She said, ‘I don’t care, that’s my son …’ ” Rosas said. “To hear them tell stories and laugh once the adrenaline and emotions had calmed down, it was fun to see the dynamics and to talk to her. You know how passionate she was about Kat, the organization and about the team.”
Rosas referred to Cruz-Towns as a “lioness.”
“She’s not going to let anything happen to her son,” Rosas said.
Part of that night, Rosas said, included Towns calming down his parents. This was the Towns family — not backing down and there for each other.
“I love that,” Rosas said. “They’re fighters, overcomers. We were hoping this was going to be another case of that. Maybe the biggest fighter overcoming her biggest fight, but unfortunately we all came up short on that.”
Rosas said he and Cruz-Towns bonded over their shared history growing up in Latin America; Cruz-Towns was from the Dominican Republic and Rosas is from Colombia. They would sometimes speak Spanish with one another, and Cruz-Towns made Rosas promise to help Towns learn Spanish.
“Charismatic, passionate, full of love and emotion and you see that passion in Karl and you see where he’s a very special blessed young man,” Rosas said. “You can trace that back to Mom and Dad.”
Rosas said the Wolves are going to do everything they can to be there for Towns.
“Do what we preach and to be the family that we talk about,” Rosas said. “He’s got an extended family that’s loving and praying and supporting him every step of the way.”