When Karl-Anthony Towns revealed in January he had suffered a severe Grade 3 right calf strain on Nov. 28, it didn't come in a Timberwolves press release. It didn't come in a news conference or an interview. Instead, it came when he was venting about his injury on the video-game platform Twitch while he and his teammates played "Call of Duty."
That was the first significant update Towns or the team offered about his injury for the long stretch of time he was out, and it came in the most nontraditional way possible. That moment encapsulated the awkwardness with which all involved handled the last four months concerning Towns' injury.
Towns has often been an open book with the media, an extension of who he is as a person. He is affable, approachable and has served the franchise well and been loyal during some trying times.
Win or lose, Towns always talks when healthy. Not every athlete, especially star athletes and faces of franchises, is like that. This is what made what happened while he missed 52 games puzzling. There was mostly silence as he went through the rehabilitation process, even in the leak-happy and scoop-trading landscape of national NBA media.
In the end, it hurt both Towns and the team in the eyes of the public. His return in Wednesday's victory over Atlanta at Target Center offered a chance to ask him why there was so much silence.
As usual, he gave a thought-out answer and seemed to be saying he was uncomfortable sharing information because a) he had never had this type of soft-tissue injury and b) he didn't know how recovery would go.
"My teammates, they were wondering the same thing," Towns said. "A week goes by, keeps going by, no update. They're trying to figure it out. Like I said, I never had a soft-tissue injury. This was something that was totally different to me than the two wrist injuries I've had. Different experience. I've learned a lot."
Fans on social media questioned Towns about his commitment to rehabilitation as the days went by and he still wasn't practicing. He went on his Twitch stream that January night to vent and offer some clarity.
But why was this the first time this information came out in public? The team never said anything officially about the injury except to say he would be out "several weeks," which became more meaningless as time went on.
Towns and the team also stayed silent about what he termed a "setback" late January. He simply posted a picture of him watching his favorite football team, the Eagles, while wearing a walking boot, which he had shed before that. Coach Chris Finch said then there was no setback, so there seemed to be miscommunication among all parties.
The team offered no information beyond that initial release. Perhaps it was doing so because of the wishes of Towns and his Creative Artists Agency, but the silence was odd, especially compared to the way other teams and other sports handle injury news.
Locally, the Twins and Wild will offer updates on injured players along with occasional interviews with them.
In the NBA, teams like the Warriors, who have some of the biggest stars in the league, regularly offer detailed injury updates and timelines for evaluation. They will then offer updates after each evaluation and sometimes have their sidelined players do press briefings. The Wolves have a policy of not making injured players available to the media.
But Towns showed that policy doesn't really matter if a player wants to speak, especially a star player. He granted interviews to The Athletic and ESPN while he was still out in the past few days, when the team policy was still supposed to apply.
This underscored an important point: If a star player doesn't want to speak or reveal information, he doesn't, and likely nobody can make him do so. It's a fact of life for many teams in the NBA: Deal with how a star wants to handle things, or don't have him at all.
Ultimately, it should be noted Towns has never wavered in his long-term commitment to the Wolves despite many coaching and front-office changes that coincided with several losing seasons. Some others in his position would have asked out of town.
But almost every NBA star has had his moments of awkwardness or drama. Towns is hardly alone or outside the norm here. It's just how the NBA is.
In this case, the vacuum of information allowed people to insert their own speculation. The collective silence created headaches for fans already on edge about how this season has been going. It fostered concerns about a star player's health and reasonable questions that received no answers, no matter whose fault it was.
Maybe all involved learned something from this. Maybe not. Either way, Towns was back in action Wednesday, and when he made two free throws to win the game, all the consternation seemed worth it.
This is the NBA.
"It didn't go as fast as we would like," Towns said. "But at the end of the day, I think everyone is just happy we're at this point."