For a second time since the trades that reshaped their roster, the Timberwolves played a game without a key piece of their future. Last week it was point guard D’Angelo Russell. Wednesday against Charlotte at Target Center, it was center Karl-Anthony Towns.
Towns missed the game because of a left wrist injury, one that, according to the team, required an MRI on Tuesday. The team said Towns will be further evaluated during the All-Star break but had no timetable for his return.
“No sense yet,” coach Ryan Saunders said when asked about the severity of the injury. “It’s been bothering him. You get it checked out, you look into all those things. He’s out. … We’ll use the All-Star break to determine the severity of it, obviously speak to his representatives and him, and figure out what the best course for Karl and the organization is.”
Versatile forward James Johnson replaced Towns in the starting lineup. Should the injury keep Towns out of the lineup for an extended period, it’s unclear what direction Saunders and the Wolves would go.
Wednesday was the 18th game Towns has missed this season. He was suspended for two games in November, which the Wolves split. He missed 15 games because of a left knee sprain from December into mid-January, and the Wolves went 5-10 without him.
But more than wins and losses, not having Towns on the court — especially for an extended period of time — will make evaluating the team’s remade roster more difficult. The final 30 games were supposed to be devoted to see who fit around Towns, the foundation upon which the team is being built.
“It changes,” Saunders said. “It changes what your evaluation may be. We’ve been very adamant about building around a guy like Karl, and adding a guy like D’Angelo to the mix. You want to make sure you have the right pieces and the right skill sets next to those guys. If Karl misses some games, it takes away from some of the evaluation of other guys around him that fill roles.”
If Towns does miss more games, players such as Naz Reid, who had already figured to see a big boost in playing time with the departure of Gorgui Dieng, Johnson and perhaps even Omari Spellman could see time at center.
Given that newcomers Russell and Malik Beasley like to take midrange jumpers more than the Wolves have preferred this season, Saunders was asked if he was OK with them continuing to do so.
To a point, apparently.
“But we will still say that if we can work on those higher-efficiency shots as a whole — at the rim or focusing from three — we feel that can take them to an even higher level. So we’ll continue to stress that with those guys,” Saunders said.
• Also missing Wednesday’s game was starting Charlotte guard Terry Rozier because of left knee soreness.