On Monday, Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns professed his full faith in President Gersson Rosas, and said he didn’t want a voice in personnel moves Rosas might make before Thursday’s trade deadline.
But when a reporter brought up how Towns would feel if the team traded his good friend Robert Covington, Towns didn’t conceal his thoughts.
“It would be very difficult if something like that was going to happen,” Towns said.
He then added: “Here’s to hoping that I see ‘Cov’ on Friday.”
But when Towns entered the locker room before Wednesday’s 127-120 loss to Atlanta, there was no trace of Covington. The forward’s locker was empty and the nameplate above it replaced with a generic “Timberwolves” sign, as were the lockers of Jordan Bell, Noah Vonleh, Shabazz Napier and Keita Bates-Diop, who were all a part of Tuesday’s four-team trade.
Covington was last seen flying to join the Rockets after the trade, which became official Wednesday night, and brought the Wolves a lottery-protected first-round pick (from Atlanta, via Brooklyn) and some young players who could be fits for their style of play in guard Malik Beasley and forwards Juan Hernangomez and Jarred Vanderbilt from Denver. Guard Evan Turner, coming from the Hawks and the fourth player the Wolves acquired, likely represents an expiring contract who will help clear cap space in the offseason and is even a potential buyout candidate.
But the trade didn’t deliver one of Towns’ good friends in Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell to replace another friend he lost in Covington, the player Towns called his “best friend” on the team.
“It was difficult,” Towns said. “… I’ve been part of so much change here in Minnesota, I’m kind of desensitized to it. Obviously, there’s ones that hurt a little bit more. Zach [LaVine] hurt a lot, Cov is up there. So the last 24 hours, I haven’t slept much. I think I fell asleep [Tuesday] at like 5:30, 6 a.m.”
The Wolves have made it their stated goal to surround Towns with talent so they, eventually, become an annual playoff contender. That, in theory, would help keep Towns happy in Minnesota and prevent him from asking out of town, as multiple unhappy stars have done in recent years. This is life in the modern NBA — teams have to keep their star players happy.
Towns didn’t sound thrilled with the direction of the current team after another disappointing loss, the team’s 13th in a row, one in which he himself looked disengaged.
“I’ve been losing for a long time,” Towns said. “I’m not trying to do that anymore. Every possession means a lot. You obviously see my patience running low with a lot of things, so there’s no excuses, we’ve got to get it done.”
Covington had the kind of bond with Towns that allowed him to call out Towns if Covington felt something needed to be said, especially on defense. Even in Covington’s last game with the Wolves on Monday in Sacramento, he was there to calm a heated Towns, who exchanged words with Josh Okogie during a timeout.
There is an analytical side to every trade, and the Wolves might have gained assets in the trade, but it might have cost them something on the human side.
A locker room leader and respected voice now is gone. One of Towns’ best friends is gone, and isn’t better to go through a tough time like the Wolves are having this season when you at least have one of your best friends by your side to go through it with you? Doesn’t it make winning that much better?
There was no indication a deal for Russell was imminent Wednesday. The Ringer reported the Warriors wanted future first-round picks from the Wolves, including one in 2021, which is reputed to be a better draft than this season’s. The Wolves, who would likely send Andrew Wiggins to Golden State as part of any deal, have offered both their pick this season and the pick they received from Atlanta in Tuesday’s trade, the report said.
But a lot could change before Thursday’s deadline.
As it related to losing Covington, Towns reiterated he didn’t want influence on personnel moves and said he understood he can’t let personal feelings get in the way of the business of the NBA.
“You can’t take it personal,” Towns said. “Can’t think of it any other way. It’s a business. I hope this is a great learning experience for [the young players] because this is what it is. You could be very close and you could be with someone you cherish a lot and they could be gone the next day.”
It was a prospect Towns didn’t want to think about earlier in the week when it came to Covington, and it leaves questions as to where the Wolves and Towns will go from here, especially if they keep losing.