WASHINGTON – The scuffle lasted only a few moments, but the reverberations and fallout from the tussle Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid engaged in took a while to settle Thursday, and for at least the next few days, the Wolves will have to get by without Towns.
The NBA suspended Towns and Embiid for two games for the fight that broke out in the third quarter of Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia, with the league and Executive Vice President Kiki VanDeWeghe citing their “continued escalation” during the incident as cause for the suspensions.
Meanwhile, 76ers guard Ben Simmons received no punishment for his role, even though the Wolves contended he had Towns in a stranglehold toward the end of the fight when both were on the floor.
“While we are disappointed with the league’s decision, we understand the magnitude of this unfortunate incident,” Wolves President Gersson Rosas said in a statement. “The NBA is highly competitive and [Wednesday] night was a reflection of that. We support Karl and will move forward together as a group.”
Towns will miss the Wolves’ games at Washington on Saturday and at home against Milwaukee on Monday.
Rosas told the Star Tribune before the suspensions came down that he didn’t think Towns was specifically trying to send a message by getting into it with Embiid, but if it did, it fits with the overall tone the Wolves are trying to accomplish.
“I think the message we’re sending is we’re going to compete and fight for everything that we deserve in this league,” Rosas said. “Sometimes you have to defend yourself, and last night was an example of that.”
The Wolves backed Towns during the review process, communicating their issues with the role of Simmons.
Simmons can be seen trying to pry Towns away from Embiid while the latter two are in a headlock. Moments later, with Towns on the ground, video showed Simmons with his arm around Towns’ neck. Referee crew chief Mark Ayotte told a pool reporter they didn’t think Simmons meant any harm.
“We deemed him a peacemaker,” Ayotte said of Simmons.
But the Wolves contested that designation without success.
ESPN first reported that dialogue between the Wolves and the league. ESPN also reported the 76ers are trying to pin Towns as the “aggressor” in the fight.
The league did not say whether Towns attempted to punch Embiid when his right arm thrust at Embiid but then wrapped around his head.
The feud did not end on the floor. The two took to social media in the early hours of Thursday to continue jawing at each other. Embiid fired the first shot, bragging on Twitter and Instagram and making light of Towns’ nickname. Embiid wrote he “was raised around lions and a cat pulled on me tonight…”
He tagged in his post Jimmy Butler, the former Wolves player and thorn in Towns’ side last season, and claimed that he occupied a significant space in Towns’ mind.
Towns responded, using typography meant to convey sarcasm to throw some of Embiid’s words not fit for print back in Embiid’s face and accompanying them with pictures of Embiid crying following the 76ers’ loss in the playoffs, and also seemingly claiming the upper hand in their skirmish.
Then it got particularly ugly. Embiid responded with another term REALLY not fit for print and laying out for the public the whispered point of view some have had about Towns since his relationship with Butler went sour.
Using more derogatory language, Embiid claimed Towns was soft and referenced “you know who,” presumably Butler.
“I ain’t gonna put your business out … I got the facts about you,” Embiid wrote. “Don’t get it twisted. I OWN YOU.”
After the game, Towns didn’t say much about the fight, only alluding to the game as “competitive” multiple times.
Rosas echoed those sentiments.
“Two teams playing well early in the season, there’s a lot of competition and a lot of emotions flowing,” Rosas said. “You understand it. You don’t ever want to see it. I think at the end of the day, we’re going to be an organization that we have to work and earn the right to be successful in this league, and last night was a step in that direction.”
Towns said after the game that he wasn’t in the business of creating headlines, that he was only focused on the Wolves’ next game.
“I’m just concerned about Washington,” Towns said. “That’s all I’m worried about.”
But he won’t be around to face Washington, and the Wolves will have to try and win without him.