The Minnesota Timberwolves had just beaten the Portland Trail Blazers, their second win in three games since the All-Star break, so Karl-Anthony Towns was in a particularly good mood. Winning stretches like this haven't come around that often the past few years.
Better yet, Minnesota had won because its No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Edwards, had the best game of his young career, scoring 13 of his then-career-high 34 points in the fourth quarter of a tight game against one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
Towns had already tried and failed to win with another former No. 1 overall pick, Andrew Wiggins, during their four-plus years together in Minnesota. And while he's just 25 years old, Towns has seen enough in his six NBA seasons to know you don't get many chances to make these kind of pairings work.
On the night of March 14, that meant sending a message.
"Let me just say," Towns began, "everyone's trying to find a way to show how they're better than Anthony Edwards, because he was taken No. 1. ... That was the right decision for us in this organization -- I want to make that very clear."
All he'd been asked was to describe what it's like being the No. 1 pick. There was no subtext to it, nothing leading Towns to comment on whether Minnesota had done the right thing by taking Edwards over Charlotte Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball, who'd been drafted No. 3 overall and had been the league's best and most intriguing rookie to that point.
"I just know how it is when you're the No. 1. pick -- if any other rookies do well, they're like, well, there's a threat to the throne," Towns said.
"I know what all those pressures are like. Everyone's saying that, even here, fans of our own, they murmur and stuff."
Towns knows what those pressures are, because in his six seasons Minnesota has cast and recast different lottery picks in the co-star role next to him -- Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Jarrett Culver, and now D'Angelo Russell and Edwards -- trying to find the right fit. (And that's not even mentioning the failed Jimmy Butler experiment.)
Which makes the final 13 games of this season, with Russell recently back from knee surgery, Edwards and fellow rookie Jaden McDaniels blossoming, and Towns playing his best basketball in years -- over his past 20 games, Towns is averaging 27.4 points, 11.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game, and he is shooting 42.4% from 3 -- so important in determining the course Minnesota will take going forward.
The Wolves only keep their first-round pick if it falls in the top three, otherwise it conveys to the Golden State Warriors (as part of the trade for Russell). Which means Minnesota could have to revisit the decision it made this fall, when it picked Edwards over Ball and James Wiseman.
Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas is adamant that Edwards will eventually become the best player among that group.
"People are so worried about who's going to perform better in the first month or first half of the season," Rosas says. "But we've got the guy that's going to be the best player when this is all said and done."
Still, he admits, it was nice to hear his franchise player publicly affirm that decision.