After missing nearly four months with a Grade 3 calf strain, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns plans to return for Wednesday's game against the Atlanta Hawks, he told ESPN.
Towns will do a final check before the game, but he said he expects to play for the first time since Nov. 28.
"I'm super excited to get back out on the court and help my team because these next nine games are super important," Towns said.
Minnesota (36-37) is currently in ninth place in the Western Conference standings.
Towns said he doesn't anticipate any restrictions once he's back despite the lengthy rehabilitation process he's been through over the past four months.
"I'm just trying to pick up where I left off," Towns said. "I was telling my dad right before I got hurt, I felt the most complete as a player in my career. From defensive end, from offensive end, from a mental aspect, leadership aspect ... I felt very complete."
Towns, who suffered the injury in a game vs. the Washington Wizards, said a Grade 3 calf sprain "is really just a tear."
"When you have a torn calf, that's a significant one," Towns said. "It takes time. And being my size, you don't want it to become like KD in Golden State."
Durant suffered a right calf strain in May 2019 and missed more than a month before returning in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, during which he fell to the court after rupturing the Achilles tendon in the same leg.
Initially Towns thought he'd be out a couple of months, but he suffered "a major setback" six weeks into the rehabilitation process that essentially sent him back to the beginning of the process.
"The return is imminent, and then boom," Towns said. "Do a little too much. It just in essence, retore. And now we're back at square one again."
Rehabilitation took longer the second time around. Towns wore a boot on his lower leg for months. Occasionally blood would pool in the area where the muscle had torn and he'd have to have it drained.
"It wouldn't heal unless we drained it," Towns said. "I still have pictures of the syringe they used to take it out."
The hardest part was not being able to watch games from the bench.
"Because of the blood and everything, I can't have my leg laying out like that," Towns said. "One time we tested it. I was in the tunnel so the fans didn't see me. But in the 15 minutes I was standing there with the boot on, my legs were so sore. I was hurting so much, I was like, 'I got to go in the back' [and] put my leg up. Was watching the game. So fans never saw me at the game, but I was in the back in the locker room watching it."
Throughout the season, Towns kept a notebook with his observations of the team. He'd share them with teammates and coaches -- anything to feel like he was contributing.
"I don't feel like I lost the step," Towns said. "I actually gained steps because I've been able to learn from a different aspect, in a way that I've never looked from just sitting on the sideline.
"I think anytime I step on the court, I can make an impact. But specifically we've been struggling a lot right now with free throws, and I've always been a really good free throw shooter. I think that, for shooting-wise, it's going to be great to add that kind of 3-point component to us."
Towns also thinks his return will help Anthony Edwards.
"I've told Ant since day one, I want to see him being great and reach levels of greatness. And I can help him do that," Towns said. ""Ant's still young, and I want to make his job as easy as possible, make the big bucks and do the hard stuff, and I can do it."
He believes he can do the same for Minnesota's major offseason acquisition, Rudy Gobert.
"So for me, with Rudy, I just want to keep putting him in positions to succeed," Towns said. "There's things that are just not who he is, and that's fine. I want him to be who he is. When he is around that basket, I don't think many people in this world can stop him."