The Coronavirus pandemic has left its ripple effect on the sports world, and nowhere might that be more evident locally than with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Last week, the team announced that after battling the virus for more than a month, Jackie Cruz Towns, the mother of star Karl-Anthony Towns, died from complications due to Covid-19. Towns went to social media shortly after learning of his mother’s diagnosis with a plea to take the virus seriously.
For the first time since getting the news, Timberwolves front office leader Gersson Rosas and guard Malik Beasley spoke with Twin Cities media via Zoom on Wednesday. They’re both still coming to terms with how Covid-19 has affected not only the Towns’ family, but the NBA and the rest of the sports world.
“It’s humbling, it’s hit all of us, it’s affected all of us and we’re fortunate to have each other during this time. Jackie will never be forgotten. Her legacy will live along with her son and their family. She was a special woman that meant a lot to this organization,” Rosas said.
Beasley, who came to the Wolves in one of several moves before the NBA trade deadline, has reached out multiple times to Towns to offer his support. On some level, Beasley can relate. He revealed Wednesday he lost a family member to Covid-19 on his mother’s side in Detroit. During the quarantine period, he’s stayed in contact with his family as much as possible.
“It’s been tough for all of us as a family. I try to call my grandma every day, little things to incorporate the people I love,” Beasley said.
The most difficult part of it all for Rosas comes from the communication aspect. He and the rest of the Wolves’ organization reaches out to Towns as much as they can. But it’s via technology, and it’s not personal.
With everybody in self-isolation until national health experts have better news, the only thing they can offer are virtual hugs.
“We’ve done everything we can to stay connected, to stay engaged, but it’s painful. You just want to grab KAT and give him a hug and let him know that we’re here with him,” Rosas said.
While it feels weird to talk about anything basketball-related, it’s hard to believe it’s been more than a month since the NBA suspended its season. It happened over Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for Covid-19. The Jazz were about to play the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Wolves were about to leave Minneapolis for a six-game, nine-day road trip. It was supposed to start against the Thunder in Oklahoma City. They had no way of knowing it until the news broke that the team was hours away from being in the NBA epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s crazy because we were supposed to go to OKC and be in that exact locker room, and that’s what’s crazy. You’ve just got to be thankful that we didn’t fly down there that night. It’s just crazy that we’re home right now,” Beasley said.
The Wolves experienced a roster overhaul before the NBA trade deadline. Eight players left the organization, seven new players were brought in, led by D’Angelo Russell and Beasley. There’s been only one game where Towns, Russell and Beasley all played together.
It was Feb. 10 in Toronto, a 137-126 loss to the Raptors. Towns had 23 points and 10 rebounds, Russell had 22 points and Beasley had 15 points and four rebounds. They didn’t win, but they saw their potential.
“That was a great experience and that was a great team. Kind of showed what we’re capable of,” Beasley said.
For now, basketball is on the back-burner. They don’t know when or if they’ll be back this season, but the top priority for the time being is health.
“We’re all trying to do our part, not only to be there for Karl and his family, but for other players who have suffered numerous losses, other staff members that have family members that are going through this process as well,” Rosas said.