CHICAGO -- Two hours ahead of tipoff Wednesday night, Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas roamed the United Center sideline to catch up with familiar faces as star player Karl-Anthony Towns participated in his pregame routine.
By the final buzzer, Minnesota would drop its seventh straight, 117-110 to the Chicago Bulls. With the loss, the Timberwolves fell to 15-29 on the season despite Towns pouring in 18 of his season-high 40 points to help the Wolves climb out of a 19-point hole.
It was Towns' eighth career 40-point game, tying teammate Andrew Wiggins for second-most in franchise history behind Kevin Love's 10, per ESPN Stats & Information research. Wiggins contributed 10 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter as Bulls guard Zach LaVine led Chicago with 25 points.
Despite recent rumors and speculation with the Feb. 6 NBA trade deadline quickly approaching, Rosas insists that Towns, 24, is Minnesota's franchise guy for now and the future.
"Karl-Anthony Towns is as untouchable as they come," Rosas told ESPN. "He's the best player on our team and he's the guy we're building around. Everything we do is to help him become the best player and to help us become the best team we can be. He's a special talent that we're going to do anything possible to help him achieve his highest potential."
After a solid 10-8 start, with Towns receiving Western Conference Player of the Week honors for Week 1, the Wolves lost momentum when Towns went down for 15 games with a sprained left knee.
Towns also addressed the rumor mill upon his return following a 116-114 loss to Indiana on Jan. 17, calling it "nonsense," according to the Star Tribune.
It is worth noting that Towns is in Year 1 of a five-year, $158 million max contract, per ESPN's Bobby Marks. He won't become a free agent until 2024.
"I mean it's the first injury of my whole career from young until now. I feel good, I felt good the first day I came back against Indiana. I just feel like I had to get myself re-implemented back into the offense," Towns said Wednesday night. "There were so many things that changed and everything when I was out -- I was just trying to find myself in the offense, and I think it was taken the wrong way when I said it. It was more saying that the plays were not meant for me anymore, it was different but the coaching staff did a great job and we talked it out and just trying to find ways."
"We've been very aggressive. We've been very thorough in terms of any opportunities to help our team, and that'll be a continual process," Rosas told ESPN. "So for us, we're gonna be very active and we're going to look at any opportunity that can present itself and make sure that if there's a deal that we can do to improve our team, we're going to take advantage of those opportunities."
Coach Ryan Saunders seems to be on the same page with Rosas in that the team has goals to improve on a daily basis; at the same time, this is viewed as a season of rebuilding until things fall into place while positive habits are being developed.
"We understand that everybody wants to win and I'm in that same boat," Saunders said. "I grew up a Timberwolves fan so I know that the fan base has waited and we know that great things come with patience and that we need to have an end goal in mind that we need to continue to work towards every day.
"It's not going to come easy, but we just continue to focus on what we can control today. You do remind them, but I do feel like our group is getting pieces in the right place to move forward."
After dropping seven in a row, the team will try to bounce back at home with contests against Houston, Oklahoma City and Sacramento.
Winning takes time and guys understand -- particularly Towns.
"I was having a conversation with someone the other day ... fans think it's so easy to win in the NBA and it's very difficult," Towns said. "It's the most difficult thing you can think of. No offense, this is not Life Time Fitness, this is not LA Fitness, this is the real thing. This is the best of the best playing, on one court, at one time, trying to figure out how to beat each other in a game of basketball. The margin of error is very slim.
"One thing I always try and tell our guys is that, 'It's cool to go out there and do 98 great things and we come in here and we talk about all the 98 great things out of 100 that we did, but those two bad things are going to be the reason we lose.' The margin of error in the NBA is that slim and tonight was one of those nights."