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Karl-Anthony Towns declares ‘championship or bust’ for Timberwolves

Posted on July 23, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS — With their offseason trade for Rudy Gobert, a massive extension for franchise cornerstone Karl-Anthony Towns and the projected continued ascendance of Anthony Edwards, the Timberwolves could be poised for big things in years to come.

One person who is sounding that notion loud and clear: Towns himself.

At a news conference Friday to formalize the four-year, $224 million supermax extension Towns agreed to a few weeks ago, Towns did not shy away from the idea of raised expectations.

"Championship or bust," Towns said, speaking publicly for the first time not just since his extension was agreed to but also since the Gobert trade.

In a sit-down interview after the news conference, Towns elaborated on that sentiment.

"When you make the trade that we made, that's the reality. I'm not trying to sugarcoat," Towns said. "You've got to think that. That's really what's on the table. I don't think the fans would be accepting of [a goal of] a third-round elimination. ... Let's be real. The standards are high. The pressure is high. And that's when we should all love to play basketball even more."

The notion might have seemed preposterous even a year ago at this time, when the Wolves were coming off a 23-49 season and there was speculation that Towns and the franchise could be headed for a breakup.

But 46 wins, a competitive playoff series and a productive offseason have altered perceptions. Towns says his faith in the organization hasn't wavered even if it has been nice to have that trust rewarded.

"In my career I've always wanted to take the tougher path," Towns said. "I've felt it's more rewarding. It gives me more of a challenge and makes every day going to the gym and going to work more fun."

Flanked by head coach Chris Finch and President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly, Towns seemed at ease Friday. Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey, in attendance at the news conference, declared it Towns' day in the city by official proclamation.

Towns has ideas on how he and Gobert — two traditional centers whose dual presence will often have Towns operating more as a power forward — can make life hard for opposing defenses and easy for Edwards.

But he also deferred to the "genius" of Finch, who rolled his eyes when Towns called him that. Laughing, Towns said Finch hates it when he calls the coach by that word.

"I stubbed my toe on the bed this morning. That doesn't seem very genius-like," Finch quipped to a smaller group later. "I mean, listen. The most important thing is that players have faith in me and believe in what we're doing as a coaching staff. The genius label, I don't take much out of that."

To that end, Towns expressed the utmost faith in both Finch and Connelly, the latter an executive who was hired two months ago and whose signature move so far was a massive trade for a player who already plays Towns' position.

"For Tim, I want him to be able to feel very confident in his decisions and not feel like ... he has to go through a channel of 'yeses' or 'nos'. I don't want to be part of that. That's not my role," Towns said. "Everything that's happened is part of his master plan, and I'm just happy to be part of it."

Connelly, who is in the process of getting to know Towns better, expressed his share of gratitude as well.

"For Karl, he's seen a lot of tough days," Connelly said. "It was so exciting to hear how excited he was about Finchy and his teammates and how quickly he was willing to get this done."

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