Day two of Wolves' training camp media availability started with Karl-Anthony Towns talking about his body, bringing everyone back to simpler #MuscleWatch times. “I joked all summer, I just wanted to be a GI Joe,” said KAT.
In years past, Towns was focused on building muscle mass and weight instead of being lean. Towns received advice from former Detroit Piston, Ben Wallace—the first NBA player from the draft era to enter the Hall of Fame after going undrafted—and has been doing workouts all summer trying to mirror his approach. Towns has been working to get lean, ultimately striving for a new body type that could take him to the next level. The connection of Towns and Wallace likely comes through an all-time great NBA trainer legend in Arnie Kander. Longtime readers may remember Operation Arnie.
“I wanted to do something different to reach the new level,” said Towns.
Finding areas to “increase his potential” was a concern for the Wolves' franchise man. “There was pressure for me, I knew my prime is coming up so I wanted to put myself in the best position.”
Seeing his contemporaries going deep in the NBA playoffs really pissed Towns off. Every workout held that reality over his head. “I came into every workout pissed off,” he said. “I came in last year really chiseled ... I came in here at 276 [lbs].” Towns was aware the Wolves were lacking at power forward in the past so his mindset was to “let me take care of everything” and he tried to put on more weight to handle those battles down low. He tried the 268 lb. route the year before and that didn’t work either.
After working his way back after losing 50 pounds while recovering from COVID-19, a trimmed-down KAT could end up working for the best. Towns said he never stepped onto a scale this offseason and was fairly surprised seeing the number fade to 240. He said, “shit, I feel good, so that’s the biggest thing.” Feeling the strongest he has at this weight is ultimately good for his knees, says Towns. With the boxing workouts he’s done over the course of seven pro seasons, and watching along as a massive fan, even participating with tons of MMA training, Towns sounds like a man feeling fresh; Towns is ready to go to war [KG clip here].
When asked about defensive coverages, and everything in between on the end of the hardwood that has crippled his squad from making the leap, Towns talked about perfecting the middle ground in coverage. He said he can switch on the perimeter with ease (he can) while sharing an example of guarding Damian Lillard, one of the most lethal players in the league. There seems to be an undying belief in Towns that he can switch and hedge and defend 1-on-1 on the perimeter. “I like guarding guards and reacting to it,” says Towns. “I grew up in [New] Jersey so Kyrie [Irving] is someone you had to guard every day.”
That confidence also creates an obvious issue. Who patrols the paint? Having a center who can play positionless basketball in the 2021 Association is advantageous in many regards. Some things also never change. For the most part, the 5 still needs to control the paint; the center still needs to be the backbone of the defense. That’s where Towns’ weight and comments come into question. A Ben Wallace type would help any team but stopping buckets only gets teams so far. Every tuned-in NBA fan should know KAT is an offensive force, and nobody should want to devolve his talent into some sort of elite dunker spot, roll-man, rim-protecting guru. Karl is way way way better than that. But this conversation leads us back to the same crossroads—one that’s been clear since Thibs was here.
“Why not both?” is only as logical as the Wolves and Towns make it out to be. It’s probably more like finding the best of both worlds. There’s still so much more to explore in this conversation of Karl, though his uniqueness is still more exciting than ever.
“I have never felt like a finished product and always strive to be the best I could be. I wanted to build my body for a playoff run,” says Towns. And while the BIG KAT has weighed more entering previous seasons, there’s never been such a massive “chip on his shoulder.” Towns, undeterred, says he's prepared to give everything he has to lessen that playoff weight.
“I am more than prepared. I am mentally ready for this season—much different than last season. If we started from ground zero last season, I am two steps up.”
KAT might be trimmed down, but he sounds souped-up.