Karl-Anthony Towns sat in a chair in front of his locker with ice packs on both knees, his debut as a professional basketball player in the books, his work on behalf of Minnesota a big reason why the Timberwolves defeated the Lakers, 112-111, at Staples Center on Wednesday night in both teams’ season opener.
Towns announced himself to the NBA world with 14 points on six-for-10 shooting and 12 rebounds, a very solid debut for the No. 1 overall pick in last June’s draft.
He then was eloquent sharing his emotions leading up to his big event, explaining how he and his teammates had dealt with the death of Timberwolves President and Coach Flip Saunders, who died from cancer on Sunday.
Saunders selected Towns in the draft out of Kentucky, knowing he had a 7-foot center who had the skills, talent and demeanor to be a force in the NBA for years to come.
Looking back at a few other NBA top overall draft picks, it was clear that Towns stood among the greats.
LeBron James, one of the most anticipated No. 1 overall picks ever, dropped 25 points on the Sacramento Kings in his first-ever game as a pro, with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003. It was an NBA record for the most points scored by a player going from high school to the NBA in a professional debut.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, known as Lew Alcindor when he was the top pick by Milwaukee, scored in 29 points in his professional debut for the Bucks against Detroit in 1969.
Tim Duncan, the first pick in 1997 after spending four years in college at Wake Forest, let the basketball universe know what it was in for when he had 15 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two blocks in his debut with San Antonio against Denver.
Allen Iverson, the top pick in 1996 out of Georgetown, quickly made a name for himself in his debut with Philadelphia by producing 30 points on 12-for-19 shooting and six assists against Milwaukee.
It was Towns’ first game, but he’s already on the right track. Here’s what he had to say to reporters after the game.
What did it feel like to beat the Lakers after Lou Williams missed a runner in the lane as time expired?
Towns: “It’s something that Flip taught us, [and that] was to ... don’t quit ever. And we just kept fighting and fighting. We just kept trying to find a way to lower the deficit and we just stayed together as a team, something we’ve been doing a lot this week -- just working together as a family and doing a great job of just keeping his [Saunders’] vision alive. I don’t know what it was on the court, but we just seemed to have Coach Saunders on our side, especially with Lou Williams shooting a floater for the game. Nine times out of 10, I think he hits that. That’s the one time. We had a sixth man on the floor.
How much time did you spend with Saunders?
Towns: “A lot. I was talking to him a lot. We sat down a lot, but we didn’t sit down as much as I wished I could have. I spent a lot of time with his son (Ryan Saunders, a Timberwolves assistant coach). I just did everything that I can to make sure that I played as hard for him [Flip]. I was so emotional at the end of the game, because I just remember promising him that I wanted to bring as many wins to this franchise as I can and as much as this franchise can hold. I’m just happy I started my promise out right tonight.”
So how did it feel Wednesday night playing in your first NBA game?
Towns: “I was just so excited. I was just so elated to be out there. It was awesome just to see my NBA dream come true. It was amazing. With the week we had, it was something that we looked forward to the whole week after the kind of week we had as a team.”
Did you think that you would have that opportunity this week to feel that joy?
Towns: “I remember [Wednesday] before the game, I’m in the hotel room and I just turned the shower on and I just sat down in the shower for like 20 minutes. And I just thought about every coach, I thought about every time I ran a sprint, I thought every jump shot I did. I thought about all the gyms I’ve played in. And I just sat there for 20 minutes, water hitting me and I was just thinking about how much work I’ve put into this moment just to be here, to be wearing this jersey, to be a part of this fraternity. And it wasn’t tears coming down or anything. I was just smiling, cause I just never thought I could find out a blueprint to make it to this area and make it to this spot in life. It seems like the blueprint found me.”
What was it like going up against Lakers center Roy Hibbert?
Towns: “I just tried to use quickness. I tried to be more energetic, use youth to my advantage. And also just be selective. Don’t force anything. Don’t take bad shot selection. Just take shots that are given to me in the offense and take shots that are given to me by the Lakers. I’m just happy that I was able to contribute to the team’s success.”
MORE NBA NEWS: