Brian Witt | NBC SPORTS
Nick Friedell currently covers the Warriors for ESPN, but previously, the Minnesota Timberwolves were his assignment. As such, he has a strong opinion about the recently completed trade between the two organizations that had Andrew Wiggins and D’Angelo Russell trading uniforms.
“No,” Friedell answered when asked if Minnesota’s new pairing of Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns would turn the franchise around on Tuesday’s episode of “The Jump.” “I am all the way out on the Timberwolves. I don’t believe that Karl-Anthony Towns is mature enough as a leader to be the face of a team that can contend and grow. I think that D’Angelo Russell was really solid in my dealings with him in Golden State, but there’s a reason why the Warriors traded him. They did not believe that he was a core piece of a possible title contender.”
After suggesting that Russell’s day-to-day attitude, not just his position, encouraged Golden State to get rid of him, Friedell returned to his criticism of Towns.
“The culture that has been created in Minnesota, especially in the last year or so with [coach] Ryan Saunders and [general manager] Gersson Rosas … everybody is afraid of upsetting Karl-Anthony Towns. Karl-Anthony Towns was anointed as ‘the guy’, he got a max deal … what has he won in the league? Everything has kind of flattened since they said, ‘You’re the man.'”
When David Fizdale suggested that it’s commonplace for NBA teams to cater to their star players, Friedell wasn’t buying that excuse.
“A lot of stars in the league have won,” he countered. “Towns has never won anything. He has always been the guy that everyone has said, ‘Oh, he can do it.’ But I think around the league, guys, the word is starting to come out that Towns has a ton of talent, and they’re going to rack up a ton of points, but is somebody going to make him play defense all the time? Is somebody going to bring out the mental toughness that you need night after night to be the person that leads the way?”
Earlier in the show, Fizdale posited that, since they’re best friends, Russell might be the one to constantly be in Towns’ ear. Well, when Russell heard Friedell’s comments, he came to his and his best friend’s defense.
In their first game as teammates in Minnesota, Russell and Towns combined for 45 of the Timberwolves’ 126 points, but they were also a combined minus-29 in an 11-point loss. Russell can call Friedell a clown all he wants, but that doesn’t prove the reporter wrong. In fact, it has the opposite effect.