As defeated Wolves limp into regular season, Karl-Anthony Towns calls team's preseason effort 'unacceptable'

MILWAUKEE -- It's been a tough week for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Being without your star player during training camp as he sits out while requesting a trade is one thing. While that's really unfortunate, it happens, and you can at least prepare to move on without him. But when he shows up to practice out of nowhere, cursing out and challenging everyone from teammates to front-office personnel, it doesn't exactly make things better. 

All along, it seemed the best plan of action for the Timberwolves was to find the best deal they could in the quickest amount of time and ship Butler out of town. He doesn't want to be on the team anymore, there's drama between him and their other stars and if they don't trade him they'll end up losing him for nothing in free agency. Yet as of Saturday morning, Butler remains on the team, less than a week before their season begins. And it's clear the entire situation is taking a toll on everyone. 

The Wolves looked disjointed and disinterested -- especially on the defensive end -- for much of their preseason finale in Milwaukee on Friday night. The Bucks had 84 points at halftime, led by as much as 41 in the second half and eventually won by a score of 143-121. It took just 25 minutes for Giannis Antetokounmpo to record a monster 32-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist triple-double, and the Bucks shot 25-of-48 from 3-point land. Things were so bad, that this was Karl-Anthony Towns' reaction in real time on the bench. 

After the game, the Wolves tried to keep things professional, denying any ill-effects from the off-court (and sometimes on-court) drama with Butler. 

"You know, like, the thing is you can't give in to any of that stuff," Tom Thibodeau said after the loss. "There's gonna be sequences during the course of the season, in which you're playing a lot of games, or you have guys out with different things, and you have to get through those things. That's a big part of winning is the perseverance, the will, the determination, you know all that stuff to not get distracted."

Derrick Rose wasn't interested in making excuses either.

"Jimmy doesn't have anything to do with how hard we play out there. He's going to make up his mind soon, or they will make up their mind soon," Rose said. "It's our job to go out there and make sure that pressure and intensity is there throughout the entire game."

But despite what the Wolves said publicly -- and to be fair, this is what they have to say -- it's hard to believe them. Not only because it's difficult to believe this kind of drama wouldn't affect anyone in any job, but also based on their lackluster performance on Friday night, and dismayed locker room after the game. All in all, they had the look of a defeated team. 

Well after the loss, with most of his teammates long gone from the visiting locker room at the Fiserv Forum, a frustrated Karl-Anthony Towns had no answers for the Wolves' performance. 

"I really don't damn know," said Towns, when asked why their effort comes and goes. "But if you find out, let me know. You can get beat. Everybody in this league, I don't care if you're the Golden State Warriors my rookie year, or the 95-96 Bulls. You're gonna lose some games. But you can't get embarrassed. That's just unacceptable."

Towns is right, of course. Even in a preseason game, playing defense like the Wolves did on Friday night isn't acceptable from an NBA team. But while the players have some responsibility to try to shut out the distractions and keep playing hard, this situation turning from unfortunate to complete debacle is on the front office. 

There was no reason for everyone not to get on the same page. There was no reason to drag this saga out for weeks, knowing that eventually Butler would return to the team and cause even more drama. And there's certainly no reason now not to get a deal done as quickly as possible. 

Towns said he doesn't know why the Wolves played like they did in the preseason, and some of that may forever be left unanswered. But one way to fix the problem moving forward is to trade Butler as soon as possible and restore some sense of normalcy to the organization. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

Our Latest Stories