LOS ANGELES – The Timberwolves played their final 12 games of last season while Karl-Anthony Towns was out because of a left wrist fracture, so it seems possible they learned a thing or two about what it's like to operate without him.
But D'Angelo Russell said that wasn't necessarily the case and offered a blunt assessment of how the Wolves played during that stretch.
"We're not used to playing without him," Russell said after Sunday night's 127-91 shellacking at the hands of the Lakers. "We just kind of went out there and played last year. We didn't have any continuity or any chemistry. I think that's still what we're lacking. We're lacking chemistry. So we're figuring it out game by game, and we're going to have nights like this."
The Wolves announced Sunday that Towns has a dislocated left wrist. While it won't require surgery, his "week to week" status suggests they will be without him for an indefinite but significant amount of time.
The Wolves learned that they can't have a repeat of how they played last year without him, when they went 3-9 in that stretch.
Russell has been a member of the Wolves for nearly 11 months. He and Towns have played only three games together. The pairing that President Gersson Rosas dreamed of when he took over has been slow getting off the ground because of Towns' injuries and the coronavirus putting a halt to last season for the Wolves and delaying the start of this one.
Even in playing that short amount of time, Russell said he will have to relearn how to play without Towns.
"I've never played with a player like him," Russell said. "When you semi-get a taste of what it's like to play with someone like him and then you lose it, all of it kind of goes out the window. [Saturday] night we were all kind of clicking within the system."
The Wolves had a promising 2-0 start, including that victory at Utah on Saturday night when Towns landed hard on his wrist. They had little time to prepare for the defending champions Sunday and it showed.
The Clippers await Tuesday, with the Wolves taking the day off Monday. The NBA schedule can sometimes be unforgiving when it comes to allowing teams periods of time in which they can both rest and practice. Often, they have to choose one or the other.
Russell was also candid in saying there's a lot the Wolves have to solve with Towns out.
"I don't really have the right answer to that now," Russell said. "Just trying to figure out where and when to get guys involved and be more aggressive on my end. But I think it's just something we get better at with time. One game at a time, one practice at a time, one preparation at a time."
It seemed like everybody who had the ball in their hands Sunday night was trying to press, to make something happen in Towns' place. Anthony Edwards took a lot of shots from the perimeter that didn't fall, finishing 1-for-9 from three-point range. Russell went 2-for-7 from the field while Malik Beasley went 3-for-9.
"KAT's a big part of the game," Beasley said. "He passes the ball. He can score the ball anytime and when the other center is guarding him, the other center is so worried about him the lane becomes open for us. Little things like that and we didn't have [Sunday]. That's the star player that we need."
But it's the star player they won't have for a while. They have to find a way to carry on without himn.
"It's a lot of stuff going on right now that we're trying to weather," Russell said. "In time, we'll figure it out."
Note: The Wolves picked up the options on Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver for next season, as expected. Okogie is in the third year of his rookie deal, Culver the second year. Okogie is doubtful for Tuesday's game because of a left hamstring strain.