Best way to watch Wolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns? With his amazing family
NEW YORK — Karl Towns can barely make it through a sentence while watching his son play.
“I think …” he begins. Then, he interrupts himself to credit one of his son’s teammates. “Great pass, Ricky!”
He tries to continue and predictably fails.
“Everybody on the team …" another self-interjection. “Let him go. Let him go. … Great D, Karl!!”
The latter cheer is a little louder. That’s Karl Towns, father of the reigning No. 1 overall pick and leading Rookie of the Year candidate, Karl-Anthony Towns. The older Towns is even-keeled … but only until the game starts.
“I can’t even sit next to my wife,” Karl Sr. chuckled as he pointed to his spouse, Jacqueline Towns, positioned a few seats to his right with the rest of the vast Towns family at Barclays Center during the Timberwolves’ Sunday victory over the Nets.
It’s as entertaining as you’d imagine watching from the outside — and as nerve-racking as you could guess from within.
“It’s so stressful watching my son play,” Jacqueline sighed.
The Towns family doesn’t live too far from Barclays. The group is even closer to the Nets’ old home, residing in Piscataway, N.J., where Karl-Anthony grew up. Now, with the Wolves’ second trip to the Tri-State Area in a week (they played the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday), the family is right there to watch him play once again.
“I don’t think he realized he was in the NBA until Wednesday night when he walked out into the Mecca, because you dream about playing in the Garden,” Karl Sr. marveled. “I said, ‘Karl, how do you feel?’ He said, ‘You know what? I’m in the league, huh?’ I said, ‘Yeah, Karl. You’re in the league.’ ”
For mom and dad though, who often travel back and forth from Minnesota, it’s just another day on edge.
That’s part of the package in being an NBA parent these days. When you fuse money with a 20-year-old’s NBA lifestyle, beau ideals are key. And for the Townses, it’s a family affair.
“That’s his role model,” Karl Sr. said of his daughter, Lachelle, Karl-Anthony’s sister who is 15 years older than him. “They do everything together.”
Family isn’t solely responsible for keeping Towns in check, though. The Timberwolves made a conscious decision to sign veterans over the summer to add a little flavor to a ripe roster. While some teams in the midst of a rebuild filled out their roster exclusively with young, high-upside players, Minnesota turned to guidance counselors, the likes of Andre Miller, Tayshaun Prince and another high-profile vet who fits the description of both former and current Wolf.
“KG is the best thing that ever happened to Karl-Anthony,” Towns’ father said before immediately sinking his face into his hands after his son commited a touch foul.
“What did he even do there?” he griped, cutting himself off once again.
In the end, though, it always comes back to those who know the rookie best. The family is around to keep the young man they call KAT modest, no one more so than Lachelle, who can’t resist getting a jab in on little bro upon seeing him.
“We are Hispanics, and they say that Dominicans wear a lot of colors,” Lachelle, who has roots in the fashion business, smirked with that big-sister grin. “I always say, ‘Well, here comes the Dominican wearing 500 different colors.’ Then, just break down every color he has on: orange, red, green, blue, black, white.”
The real wonder is what Lachelle would’ve said about the camouflage-patterned, orange jacket Towns wore to Sunday’s game, one that would be effective as actual camouflage only if he were hiding out in the enchanted forest.
“Knowing her, her having two successful clothing businesses, she’s probably going to like it,” Towns joked.
The University of Kentucky product’s game isn’t nearly as loud as his wardrobe, though.
Watching Towns doesn’t feel like viewing a not-quite-teenage first timer. It’s more along the lines of seeing some should-be-rickety, old vet who somehow never lost his athleticism or skill. It’s like if Sly Stalone could pull off playing Rambo — but in 2015. All Towns has done in the process is rank first or second in points, rebounds and blocks among this year’s stellar rookie class.
But his contributions go beyond the stats.
Rookies tend to struggle on the defensive end when first entering the league. Concepts like team defense and off-ball communication elude them. That’s especially true for the ones who, like Towns, spend only a single season in college. But even at age 20, those should-be weaknesses are his strengths.
“It’s a lot of hard work to put in to become the best defender that I could possibly be,” said Towns. “I remember being younger and my coach telling me that I was the worst defender on the team, and I take stuff like that very serious.”
He must be taking those critiques seriously. Apparently, the only thing he’ll let go of more begrudgingly than a rebound is a negative review.
When did his coach tell him that?
“I was young. Like, second grade, third grade,” he said.
Oh, how he’s grown up since the days of hitting the bowling alleys and the mall with Lachelle after games. Yet much is still the same. It’s Karl-Anthony Towns, basketball and family.
Fred Katz covers the NBA for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter: @FredKatz.