WASHINGTON – Karl-Anthony Towns was one of the last Timberwolves to walk out of the weight room and onto the floor at Georgetown’s practice facility. He screamed, “Let’s go,” as practice was about to begin, pulled up to hit a few three-pointers and gave a little dance as a Mary J. Blige song was playing.
Towns made his presence known at practice Friday, but his teammates will have to compensate for his absence Saturday when they take on the Wizards.
Towns will serve the first game of his two-game suspension for Wednesday’s fight with 76ers center Joel Embiid. How will the Wolves try to get by without him? Coach Ryan Saunders said the Wolves likely will have to adjust everything they do offensively, given Towns’ versatility in the post and on the perimeter. They might look a little different, but the underlying principles of pace and smart shot selection will remain.
“When you don’t have a player of Karl’s caliber in the lineup, there will be things that you need to take out that you may run offensively,” Saunders said. “But you may be able to find out more about yourself and that might be to play faster. That might be in the half-court and how we can move the ball if we’re playing a little bit smaller.”
It figures that Towns’ backup, Noah Vonleh, will replace Towns in the starting lineup, but Vonleh made it clear — the Wolves are going to have to pick up the scoring slack with Towns (27.3 points per game) out.
“I wouldn’t say there’s pressure, but we just got to rise to the occasion,” Vonleh said. “He’s out for a couple of games, and we definitely are going to need a lot of scoring to win this next couple of games. … Everybody has to look to be more aggressive than they usually are and look for their shot.”
Towns also leaves a hole in the Wolves defensively. He was off to one of his best starts on that end of the floor with 11.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.8 blocks per game. However, unlike the offense, the defense shouldn’t have to change much schematically. They’ll just have to make up for Towns not being there — easier said than done.
“We want guys that feel the need to step up,” Saunders said. “We also want to make sure these guys know it’s not all on one player’s shoulders or one person’s shoulders. It’s on the group, on the system.”