Patrick Reusse
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This is an excellent word not used often in modern lexicon: "prude.'' The preferred definition comes from Merriam-Webster: "a person who is excessively or priggishly attentive to propriety or decorum.''

And the opinion here is that if you don't enjoy Charles Barkley in his best forms, those being as a TV panelist and in video replays of his golf swing, that makes you officially a prude.

Three decades ago, the media covering the first assemblage of "The Dream Team'' were allowed to pay for rooms in the same hotel where the players stayed in La Jolla, Calif.

Silas McKinnie, a former Gophers assistant, was working as a scout in the NBA and was at the hotel. I bought him a late-afternoon toddy at the bar, and then Barkley — Silas' friend from Alabama — showed up. They talked; I listened and laughed.

As Charles was leaving for a poker game with other Dream Teamers, a civilian came up to him and said something quietly. Barkley turned and went over to a young man who had spent his life in a wheelchair.

This wasn't a "hello, nice to meet you'' from Charles. High-stakes poker could wait. Barkley sat down and talked with the excited, challenged fan for a half-hour, minimum.

Which is to say, "Put me in the large group that loves Barkley,'' before adding: "Charles is wrong about the Timberwolves being messed up in their usage of 7-foot center Karl-Anthony Towns."

It is Barkley's opinion that when an NBA team has a talented, very big man, he has to be down low to impose himself physically on a defense. Charles was overheard on TNT with this rant a couple of times during the regular season.

Then it became open mic on KAT bashing after his near-absence in the Timberwolves' 109-104 play-in victory over the L.A. Clippers on Tuesday night.

Six fouls, 24 minutes, 3-for-11 from the field (0-for-7 in the first half) and 11 points.

A TNT theory was that starting the offense with KAT in the middle post made it easier for the Clippers to have Nicolas Batum either in front or to Towns' side, with a big man loitering behind him.

On Thursday, Wolves coach Chris Finch was asked about Barkley's theory that Towns should be a post-up player, meaning down low.

"KAT is a post-up player,'' Finch said. "We post him up quite a bit. KAT can score at all levels. He's not a one-trick pony. We're going to use all of his best assets.''

Towns has a couple of tricks that might be unmatched among centers in the NBA: shooting from distance and storming past defenders on drives when contested too closely.

A case can be made that he gets in trouble when he's down low, fighting through the crowd. Playing "soft'' wasn't his problem against the Clippers. Muscling up missed shots contributed to the first-half goose egg, and also helped get him in foul jeopardy.

Did Barkley and the rest of the KAT's-too-soft crowd enjoy the fifth foul, as Towns tried to barge through the defense with his right shoulder in the third quarter?

This is Towns' seventh season with the Wolves. There were three years when I was among the civilians expecting more — particularly when he went from ironman to oft-missing in 2019-20 and again last season.

Jimmy Butler's anti-KAT screed was over the top, but as the losing resumed after Butler's departure, you wondered about Towns' commitment to the cause here in Minnesota.

We were taking bets as the Wolves had a six-game losing streak early in this season's schedule that, by the All-Star break, there would be reports from unnamed sources Towns wanted a trade.

And then this outfit became high-scoring, and fairly competent defensively, and went from 23-49 (.319) in 2020-21 to 46-36 (.561).

The stat line might be similar, but start to finish this has been KAT reaching back for the same commitment of his first three seasons, adding experience and playing the best of his NBA life.

I don't find that Clippers effort to be evidence of Towns lacking intestinal fortitude in big moments, as do others. I see it more like Patrick Mahomes' second half vs. the Bengals … just a bad ballgame when you don't expect it from a team leader.

And there's also this: Where would the Wolves be without him and whatever would be the NBA's version of Wins Above Replacement?

Because, as with Kevin Garnett before him, there's no deal to be made that would replace KAT's all-levels talent.