Some of the media experts have compared Timberwolves No. 1 overall draft choice Karl-Anthony Towns in ability with Patrick Ewing, who spent time playing for Rick Pitino early in his NBA career.
Ewing was drafted No. 1 overall by New York in 1985. Pitino, who left his job as a Knicks assistant to become coach at Providence that year, returned to the Knicks as their head coach two years later.
The father of Gophers coach Richard Pitino is not ready to put Towns at Ewing’s level as a rookie, but the elder Pitino did say Towns already does some things better than Ewing and sees a great future for him.
“He’s not as dominant as Patrick Ewing was as the No. 1 pick,” Pitino said. “He’s not as aggressive as Ewing was, he probably shoots it better, he probably runs the floor as well [as Ewing did]. He probably … does more things than Patrick, he’s more versatile. He may not be the shot blocker or the tough guy that Patrick was, but he certainly does more things.”
The 62-year-old Pitino, who has won two NCAA championships and coached at seven Final Fours with three progams, said the thing he likes the most about Towns is that he is multifaceted in his talents.
“He can block shots, he has a very good low-post game, he’s a very good offensive rebounder, he has a very good outside shot, he runs the floor,” Pitino said. “So what I like about him is he’s not just good at one thing. He’s multidimensional in terms of his skills, and on the offensive and defensive end he can do it all.”
Pitino added that Towns moves laterally and runs fast. “Somebody asked me yesterday, ‘Give me the weakness on Karl Towns,’ and I said, ‘I’m not sure he has a major weakness.’ He pretty much does it all. He passes well, he shoots well, he runs well, he has a great attitude. I’m not sure he has a glaring weakness. He understands defense very well.”
Most observers believed that the top two players available in the draft were Towns and Duke center Jahlil Okafor, who ended up going third to Philadelphia, after the Los Angeles Lakers took Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell No. 2.
“In general, you know Okafor does some things a little bit better and Towns does some things better than him,” Pitino said. “They’re both similar in that they’re big, they’re talented, they’re long, but Towns probably does a few things better, Okafor does a few things better. But Towns is the complete guy.”
Pitino said Towns is a better defensive player than Okafor. “Okafor doesn’t guard pick-and-rolls as well,” he said. “You know Towns, he does pick-and-rolls very well, and he’s competitive.”
Faced Towns early
When Pitino and Louisville faced off against Towns on Dec. 27, it was one of the biggest nonconference games of the 2014-15 season. No. 1 Kentucky and No. 4 Louisville were both undefeated, and the Cardinals were playing at home.
Kentucky won 58-50 on its way to a perfect regular season. Towns scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 26 minutes. He also had four turnovers, but most notably he scored nine points in the final 15 minutes of the second half.
Pitino added that Towns, because he is so versatile, can play either forward or center. “He’s agile enough that he can play two positions,” Pitino said.
“I do think he can survive in the NBA [immediately]. He’s going to hit the rookie wall somewhere around the 50-game mark, as they all do, but I definitely think he can start and play well.”
Spielman on recruiting
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman has found himself involved in recruiting with his family after all these years recruiting future NFL players.
Spielman went through the recruiting process with one son, Ronnie, a lacrosse standout at Eden Prairie High School now playing that sport at Ohio State.
Now Rick Spielman is in the same position with a younger son, J.D., who played all positions on the football field at Eden Prairie but is being looked at by some schools as a slot wide receiver.
What is it like for Spielman to be on the other side of things?
“I am pretty blessed to have a pretty unique position where I know most of these head coaches around the country,” said Spielman, adding that he would tell the coaches he didn’t like the nonsense that comes with recruiting: “Either you’re interested in my son or you’re not and there’s no hard feelings if you’re not, just like in my business.
“I like to be direct and to the point, and if it works out fine I’m fine, and if it doesn’t I’m fine as well. J.D., as a bragging father, is pretty talented athletically and he works extremely hard. He’s working out four days a week right now, just coming off a lacrosse season, and he’s pretty talented there. I just told him to focus on getting himself better and going into his senior year to have a great senior year. We’ll let the process take its course.”
• The Vikings at present are $8.5 million under the salary cap, so they have money to sign a free agent if they find one they like.
• There is a very good chance that Rick Pitino’s Louisville men’s basketball team will be on son Richard’s Gophers schedule not this upcoming season but the following year as part of a home-and-home setup. Richard Pitino recently detailed the Gophers’ nonconference schedule that has been set up for 2015-16, and the Gophers will play in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, where one of the other teams playing is Texas Tech, coached by former Gophers coach Tubby Smith.
• Twins General Manager Terry Ryan was asked if third baseman Miguel Sano, the team’s No. 2-ranked prospect behind Byron Buxton, will be coming up soon. “Not right now, he’s down at Double-A [Chattanooga] and he’s progressing and doing OK, he’s not doing great. But his bat is way ahead of his defense, which is the opposite of Buxton. Buxton’s defense is way ahead of his offense. Sano is having a decent year, but he hasn’t forced himself out of Double-A yet, so there’s some things he’s learning and is in good hands there with [manager Doug] Mientkiewicz and [hitting coach] Chad Allen.” Sano began Saturday hitting .260 with 14 home runs and 45 RBI.
• Apparently, Kevin Garnett was involved in a minor way with the Timberwolves draft process, and he has been working out on a regular basis at the Wolves’ new Mayo Clinic Square practice facility, a good indication that he will play this year. “He has been with us,” coach Flip Saunders said of the 39-year-old forward. “He was over, had the ability to see the players. He has been spending some time over at the new practice facility, as are Ricky Rubio and Zach [LaVine], and we’ve had a lot of players that have kind of been in and out these past few weeks.”