Not having Karl-Anthony Towns has certainly hurt the Timberwolves.
Not only is he the team’s best player and leader, but he’s also the focal point of everything they do on the floor. It’s easy to look at the team’s recent struggles and point to the all-star center’s absence.
But it’s also important to note he’s not the only starter missing. Josh Okogie’s absence has also been hurtful to the team’s performance. Minnesota hasn’t had the starting wing since he went down in the first half of the loss to the Lakers on Dec. 27, with a strained hamstring.
Okogie is the Wolves’ best and most versatile defender. That’s not a piece this roster could afford to lose.
“We miss him on the defensive end, but we miss his spirit. His spirit is something that really helps us,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said. “That Utah win, between him and Karl, those two guys, they lift the group, especially. They’re our longest tenured guys here and we miss them. We miss Josh, but especially on the defensive end. We know he’s a very talented individual defender, but he’s also a defensive leader, and we miss that.”
Okogie did workout on the floor prior to Minnesota’s game against Denver on Sunday. That, Saunders said, is a “good step” toward recovery. Saunders said Okogie still needs to cross “certain thresholds” before returning to game action, such as practicing in a group setting.
Perhaps that could come as early as Monday’s practice?
“There’s opportunities,” Saunders said, “and the fact that you see him cutting out there, moving, it’s a good sign as we move forward.”
The team originally announced Towns’ dislocated wrist would be evaluated on a weekly basis. Towns’ injury was diagnosed last Sunday, which would suggest an evaluation is coming soon.
“I know we’re on about a week from when we kind of found all this out, but I don’t have an exact date on when that evaluation would be,” Saunders said. “It would be early this week though, staying in that weekly update.”
Jaylen Nowell has yet to play this regular season as he works his way back from a calf injury. Saunders said the second-year guard, who impressed in the preseason, did more cutting on Saturday and has done “a number of things through other practices, so he’s coming along, as well.”
Sunday marked the first home game this season in which the Timberwolves had a “family cam” just off the court during pregame warmups at Target Center. The 70-inch screen allowed players and coaches to interact with family members.