Occasionally dismissive and almost always dry as a bone, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle isn't a man often effusive with his praise, particularly when it comes to newcomers in the NBA.

But in the right moment and with just the right subject …

Such is the case when he speaks of Timberwolves rookie center Karl-Anthony Towns.

"I don't know the last time I've ever said this about a rookie player, but he's a great player," Carlisle said. "He has become a great player."

And Carlisle will have seen Towns play up close all of four times by the time Sunday afternoon's game at Target Center is history.

Fast approaching playing all 82 games in his first NBA season, Towns has done everything but pose with the trophy on his way to winning the league's Rookie of the Year award, one year after teammate Andrew Wiggins did it.

Color Carlisle impressed.

"He keeps things simple," Carlisle said. "He has a full skill set. He drives it. He's really good in the post. He can shoot midrange and long range. He blocks shots and rebounds, and you can tell that he's got that winner thing. We're extremely impressed with him. I'm extremely impressed with him."

Wolves interim head coach Sam Mitchell probably agrees with everything Carlisle says, even though he has refused to participate in a coronation whenever he has been asked about his star rookie.

"Everybody has their opinion," Mitchell said when told about Carlisle's comments the last time the two teams played a month ago. "We like Karl. We like what he's doing. We like his development. I just think we all need to slow down and let him grow up and let him play. I don't think it's fair to put those kind of expectations on a guy his first season, a guy 20 years old. We don't talk to Karl about those things. We just talk about getting better in the areas he needs to get better and keep developing his game."

The NBA named Towns its Western Conference Rookie of the Month every month so far, from November through February. With March now gone, that one is almost certain to come early this week.

"It's hard as a coach not to say about a rookie playing the second-toughest position after point guard that you're not pleased with the things he's doing," Mitchell said. "We're awfully pleased. Karl deserves a lot of credit. He works his butt off. He wants to be good. That's half the battle."

Towns said praise such as Carlisle's and awards such as the NBA's are all well and fine and flattering, but …

"I really appreciate that, that's a blessing from a coach of his caliber and success rate to say something really nice about me," Towns said. "That's an honor, but at the end of the day it's about beating the great one he has in Dirk Nowitzki and his team. It's about winning."

So far, Towns and the Wolves have won 25 times in a season that now has six games left.

It's not nearly enough to challenge the Mavericks, Houston and Jazz for one of the West's final playoff spots, and it's not enough to leave Towns, Mitchell and others the least bit satisfied.

But Towns' play in this 25-victory season thus far has convinced Carlisle to speak his mind openly, about a rookie no less.

"He's one of those guys that are the next generation of players," Carlisle said. "There are going to be guys like him, that have the great size and length and still can play the '4' [power forward], those super athletes with super length that now are still damn quick and can do anything on the basketball court. He's an unbelievable weapon for them."

NBA short takes

Warriors' pursuit of history remains

Golden State's 54-game home winning streak in the regular season and chance for a perfect record at Oracle Arena this season is gone after Friday's loss to visiting Boston. But breaking the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' record 72-10 mark remains reachable, IF the Warriors win five of their remaining six games.

They still must play rival San Antonio and Memphis twice each and Portland once, and the Timberwolves visit Oakland on Tuesday.

"They're a very good team," Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell said. "They're the best team. They're the champs."

Finally together

The L.A. Clippers get star Blake Griffin back Sunday for the first time since Dec. 26, an absence caused by injuries and a four-game suspension for punching a team employee. Paul Pierce (sprained ankle) likely will return shortly thereafter.

Coach Doc Rivers expects both to be ready for his team's playoff opener.

"If Blake can come back right and Paul comes back right," Rivers said, "then I think it will allow us to be very versatile."

LaVine assists

Wolves guard Zach LaVine on Monday unveils a new kitchen at the Metro Deaf School in St. Paul. He donated $10,000 to provide meals and a gathering place at a school he has visited three times this season. He became involved because he learned sign language in high school.

"I just felt like it'd be something cool," he said. "I haven't known a lot of people who have gone and tried to help the deaf community."

Wolves' week ahead

Sunday: 2:30 p.m. vs. Dallas

Tuesday: 9:30 p.m. at Golden St.

Thursday: 9 p.m. at Sacra.

Saturday: 9:30 p.m. at Portland

Sun, Thu, Sat FSN • Tue TNT

Player to watch: Draymond Green, Warriors

Thought we were going to say Stephen Curry? Ha, guess again! This former second-round pick out of Michigan State amazes — OK, maybe that's a bit of hyperbole — with his passing and feel for the game from point forward.


"It slipped. Hopefully that's not on 'Shaqtin' a Fool.' That was a little high."

— Wolves guard Zach LaVine on a leaping pass he intended for teammate Ricky Rubio that seemed headed for the fifth row instead during Wednesday's lopsided loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Target Center.