/Towns heartbreak sends strong message

Towns heartbreak sends strong message


You see the vulnerability on Karl-Anthony Towns’ face, the anguish in his voice, the fear in the Minnesota Timberwolves center’s body language.

Towns’ mother has the COVID-19 virus and is in a medically induced coma, according to Towns.

In some ways, it’s the worst possible nightmare.

Rudy Gobert’s diagnosis was the first domino to fall in the NBA, leading to the cancellation of games and the mass alteration of our way of life. The other players who’ve since been diagnosed have largely been asymptomatic, giving some degree of separation between what this looks like and what it is.

But Towns’ mother, Jacqueline Cruz, takes this to another level, on so many levels. This doesn’t just threaten our way of life, our habits.

It threatens life itself.

Towns had that jarring feeling as he opened up to the world the steps his mother has gone through before reaching this point. The numbers say while NBA players aren’t immune to catching it, their chances of recovery is as high as any because of their age and health.

It’s the older demographic that’s at a greater risk, a space Towns’ mother apparently occupies. The fever, the cough, her lungs — the tell-tale signs this virus has taken ahold of a person — has affected Towns’ mother.

“We always thought the next medicine would help, the next one, this mixture will get it done …” Towns said in a video released on Instagram. “She was deteriorating, daily. Things went sideways, quick. She was having trouble breathing.”

Talk to enough professional athletes, regardless of color, stature or economic background, and the pride they take in providing for their parents beams through. Often enough, when a player signs his first big contract out of the rookie-wage scale he’s drafted into, the first thing he’ll do is buy his parents a house.

A bigger house.

A better one.

Something to signify the upward mobility, even if the parents don’t come from humble means.

Having a parent be so vulnerable and a player like Towns be so powerless to this silent, invisible machine is an athlete’s worst nightmare.

In the video Towns was pleading for everyone to take the social distancing aspect of things seriously, because in some pockets of the country it hasn’t been.

Being a great athlete means exerting an immense amount of control on various outcomes, realizing that power. In this situation, with no vaccines and no way to determine where it’s coming from or who’s getting it, it has to be sobering. And frustrating to watch some segments of the public have a slow reaction to the risks.

Perhaps it’s a “see no evil, hear no evil” type of thing, where unless people see the actual effects of the virus in their daily lives they won’t grasp it.

It hasn’t hit someone close to them — until it does. It can be a parent or mentor or a favorite aunt.

COVID-19 takes no prisoners and the lack of equipment and supplies makes the current state of affairs that much more dangerous by the minute.

“I think it’s important everyone understands the severity of what’s happening in the world,” Towns said.

Towns’ parents had notified him of the symptoms shortly after the NBA postponed the season nearly two weeks ago and he urged them to seek medical attention.  The Timberwolves were one of the franchises that notified its staff of things very early in the process, perhaps a reason Towns was “adamant” they go to the hospital to get checked.

After some time, Towns’ father was released and sent to quarantine for 14 days.

His mother, however, had to stay.

“I don’t think anyone really understood what was going on,” Towns said. “The hospitals were doing everything they could. I was doing everything I could.”

Towns revealed he believed his mother was turning a corner before her fever spiked again. Perhaps in his most vulnerable moment he said in one of their last conversations before she was placed in a coma, “She was telling me some things I didn’t want to hear, so I dismissed it. It wasn’t something I wanted to hear.”

Towns operates in relative obscurity in Minneapolis. Aside from team drama with Jimmy Butler last season, he’s been a productive player on a franchise that hasn’t learned how to put together a winning environment.

He’s been a double-double machine in his five years, with career-highs of 26.5 points and 4.4 assists to go with his usual work on the boards at nearly 11 per game. Off the court, he’s been involved with the Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic even before his mother came down with the coronavirus, donating $100,000 to help with testing.

“The donation allows the renowned Mayo Clinic to increase its output for testing for COVID-19, from 200 daily tests when the virus first started affecting people, to now 4,000 over the course of one week,” according to the press release.

Teammates and people associated with the Timberwolves say he’s the quietly generous type, thoughtful with his actions. Drafted by the late Flip Saunders, he organized the team to surprise current coach and Saunders’ son, Ryan, when the high school Flip attended outside of Cleveland was dedicating the court to him.

Ryan and Saunders’ widow were shocked when the team came along, and Towns and other teammates donated money to the school after the ceremony.

Towns surprised the coaching staff with Beats by Dre headphones to start the season, and when he heard of a teammate only wanting to play in a certain shoe, Towns tracked it down, purchasing 15 pairs so he could be set for the entire season.

“He doesn’t want people knowing all of that, but that’s the dude he is,” a Timberwolves staffer told Yahoo sports.

So when Towns sat down, shaken and scared for his mother’s life, to reveal the details about his mother’s diagnosis and encourage those who heard his voice to heed advice of the medical experts to stay inside and flatten the curve, he exercised the last bit of power he had left.

“This disease does not need to be taken lightly,” he said. “This disease is deadly. We’re gonna keep fighting it. We’re gonna win.”

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