On February 23, 2021, the Timberwolves were 7-25 and president Gersson Rosas had just fired Ryan Saunders and installed Chris Finch as head coach. From Karl-Anthony Towns’ perspective, it could have been just another wayward year in his tumultuous Timberwolves tenure.
Before the Wolves played the Bucks that night, Towns spoke to the media and was asked by a reporter if he was still determined to win at Minnesota.
“I’ve said it before, I think one of my biggest weaknesses for me is loyalty,” Towns said. “I’m a very loyal guy, right down to the foul. I’ve said it before, I’d like to finish my career here in Minnesota. … I want to build something big here. I want to build a legacy in Minnesota.”
Through all the losses, through all the rumors that he would be the next NBA star to request a trade, Towns has remained true to his commitment to Wolves.
On Thursday night, Towns and a new Wolves front office under chairman Tim Connelly took a major step forward in their commitment to build a winner together, as Towns agreed terms on a four-year supermax extension to worth an estimated $214 million, a deal that would keep Towns with Wolves until 2028.
The deal was largely a formality by the time Towns accepted it Thursday night. Connelly recently said he wants to have Towns with the Wolves for the long term, when they can share Towns with his jersey retired by the franchise.
“I hope he’s here forever,” Connelly said. “I hope we have the type of team success that would allow us to look up and see Karl’s jersey hanging in the rafters.”
Despite frequent rumors over the years that he was unhappy and wanted to leave Minnesota, Towns was firm in his public comments that he was committed to building a winner with Wolves. The kind of money Wolves are able to offer – which is far more than other teams could offer him – certainly hasn’t hurt the path to a deal.
NBA salary cap rules encourage players to stay with their current teams or the team that drafted them, and because of this, league rules allow Wolves to offer more money than they currently do. any other team possibly could. The Cities deal is 35% of the salary cap, a number that can fluctuate from year to year, hence why the total contract value is an estimate.
That kind of money can get a little whitewashed, but it’s what Towns qualified for by making the All-NBA team this season, and few players who make All-NBA teams aren’t on maximum or supermax contracts.
The amount of money in Towns’ contract is also a product of the league’s inflated fortunes and salary cap increases from his billion-dollar TV deals. That’s what it costs to keep players of Towns’ stature, and if Wolves don’t offer him, they risk upsetting Towns and losing him.
There’s little risk in that for Towns, who if unhappy later can always ask for a trade and leave Minnesota.
Towns averaged 24.6 points per game and 9.8 rebounds last season as he led Wolves to their second playoff appearance during his tenure, the first after his only full season alongside Jimmy Butler. Wolves finally got back above .500 for the first time since this season as Towns played some of their best defense under Finch, who used a defensive scheme that gave Towns more responsibility to play on the perimeter.
Finch acknowledged Tuesday that Towns signing the extension would be a monumental moment for the team.
“Those are all our hopes, really,” Finch said. “We know he’s happy. We were extremely happy for him, for All-NBA and the opportunity to have this extension. I know he worked hard for it. I know he’s excited, so I think it will be a good time, a special time for him and for this organization.”
Now the hardest part of the title fight continues.
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