INDIANAPOLIS – As Karl-Anthony Towns came out of the shower and got dressed, he had his phone in his hand, playing a just-released posthumous album from his late friend, hip-hop artist and rapper Mac Miller.
The song playing was “Everybody,” a downbeat, midtempo song that offers reflective lyrics on life and love, made more bittersweet given the fact that Miller has passed.
“Feels like I’ve seen a million sunsets. If you’re with me I’ll never go away,” Miller sings.
Perhaps the music contributed to Towns’ reflective mood after the Timberwolves lost 116-114 to the Indiana Pacers in his first game back from a sprained left knee and an illness that caused him to go on crutches, go to the hospital and miss 15 games — the longest absence of his career. At times he can be boisterous. But he spoke in quiet tones while wearing a Kyle Rudolph Pro Bowl jersey after scoring 27 points in his first game back.
“The game of basketball is a very fragile thing,” Towns said in his first public comments since getting hurt Dec. 13. “I had to take my time and had an unfortunate setback getting sick. If I could really say, I’m just so happy basketball is here for me, because it was some great therapy for me today.”
He would then say later: “I felt therapy out there tonight.”
Towns used his play to show how appreciative he was to be back. It seemed like he had hardly any rust in shooting 9-for-21 in 28 minutes. The Wolves went scoreless the final 1:48 after tying the score, and Malcolm Brogdon’s floater with 18.3 seconds to play handed the Wolves their fourth loss in a row.
But there was little disappointment in the Wolves locker room afterward. Players were content to have Towns back.
“I thought in 28 minutes, and he’s still trying to find his rhythm … but I’m happy with how he looked,” coach Ryan Saunders said.
Added Andrew Wiggins, who had 22 points: “It didn’t surprise me. That’s what he does. He’s a natural-born hooper.”
Towns was glad to be back in his element. He said he knew his knee injury, which came after a hard foul late in a loss to the Clippers, was bad the moment he suffered it. But he stayed in the game.
“I wanted to ride adrenaline, and I wanted to finish it out … I was more surprised after the game to see how swollen and sore it got,” Towns said.
He would need crutches in the next few days. Then as he was set to return, he got sick and said he needed time in the hospital to recover.
In the interim, the league went speculating about his happiness in Minnesota. A report surfaced saying Towns was unhappy with the Wolves. He shot that notion down Friday.
“I think you’ve been around me long enough,” he said. “… I know what the real story is. There’s a reason those stories are made because people need to sell papers, sell links and clicks, whatever the case may be. I’m here to be a Minnesota Timberwolf. Very fortunate I have a head coach like Ryan, a president and friend like Gerss. I’m not worried about all that nonsense.
“Whatever we have to deal with in house, we’ll deal with in house, but this ain’t the circus like it used to be. This is something that’s going to be done as a family. If we have a problem or anything, we’ll deal with it internally. We won’t have any external forces here adding anything.”
It was the only time during Towns’ postgame media session that his emotion rose. He joked his teammates were making him look bad because of how well they defended when he was out. But mostly, he was just glad to be back after a trying month.
“I know everyone was questioning this and that,” Towns said. “But I have a great organization that’s behind me and they put me first.”