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Juan Toscano-Anderson will play any role in Warriors winning NBA title

SAN FRANCISCO — Juan Toscano-Anderson has worn a handful of hats this season, willing and ready to do whatever the Warriors might need from him on any given night. He has been a starter and a role player coming off the bench. He dropped 17 points against the top-seeded Phoenix Suns and has received a good deal of DNPs.

In the regular-season finale, Steve Kerr appointed JTA as his backup point guard with Andre Iguodala out on the second night of a back-to-back. Toscano-Anderson responded by scoring eight points, hitting both of his 3-point attempts, adding four rebounds and four assists, and was a plus-17 in 24 minutes in reserve.

Against the Denver Nuggets, the Warriors’ first-round matchup in the 2022 NBA playoffs beginning Saturday at Chase Center, Toscano-Anderson played in three out of the Warriors’ four games. He started two of them and didn’t play a second in one of them. In his two starts vs. the Nuggets, I have averaged 9.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists.

And in the one game he kept his warmup jacket on, he was just as engaged.

To the Oakland native, it’s simple: Be prepared to make a winning impact, no matter what’s asked of you for that game.

“Stay ready, man,” Toscano-Anderson said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “This is what we get paid to do. You got to come to work prepared to work whenever your number’s called. I’m just ready to play whenever my number’s called. I’m excited whether I’ll be the biggest cheerleader or I I’m in the game competing.

“Everybody from the top to the bottom matters. Energy matters. Your approach, your attitude matters. If I’m not playing, it’s my job to uplift my teammates, keep our cohesiveness together. I always just try to find something to bring to the table to be valuable in some capacity.”

Toscano-Anderson is about to get his first taste of the NBA playoffs. This isn’t the first time he finds himself under the bright lights, though. As a Bay Area prep star, he has led Castro Valley High School to a record-breaking season and its first North Coast Section title. The pressure only grew at Marquette and then when he was clawing his way to making a name for himself in Mexico’s top professional league.

He also had the honor of representing Mexico in FIBAs back in 2016. But after Wednesday’s first playoff practice, Juan could already feel an uptick in intensity. The NBA playoffs are a different ballgame. Everything is calculated to the nth degree, and Toscano-Anderson is zeroed in on the small things.

His non-stop, selfless energy is just as evident on the practice court too, getting himself and his teammates ready for the real season to begin.

“It’s pretty natural for me, it’s just who I am,” Toscano-Anderson said of always bringing energy. “Obviously we all want to play. But one thing I was always told is just, ‘You can’t get your feelings in it.’

“We got a great team, we got a competitive team. I’m not worried about whether I’m playing or not at this point. We’re here in the playoffs and it’s time to lock in on what the goal is, and the goal is to win a championship.”

When Juan looks at himself in the mirror, he doesn’t just see points and rebounds. He sees one individual who is part of something more meaningful. The team is bigger than one player, especially a team with a championship pedigree like the Warriors. That certainly has always been the message with Golden State, just look at the franchise’s “Strength in Numbers” mantra.

They pride themselves on it, as does Toscano-Anderson.

That work-like mentality and not taking playing time or anything else personally can be traced back to his Oakland Rebels AAU coach, who also coached Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, which is why the Rebels now are named Team Lillard.

“Every day’s a different battle. Every day’s different,” Toscano-Anderson says. “But yeah, my AAU coach and mentor Raymond Young, I talk to him pretty often. He’s pretty old-school. He just reminds me I’m here to do my job. If I’m the 14th or 15th man on the bench and didn’t play today, I still came to do my job.

“It’s a long haul, man. It’s a marathon. Things can change game to game, round to round. Just work on my game every day, stay mentally and physically ready.”

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Things changing game to game and round to round is another message he reminds himself of daily. But the microscope has an even finer lens in the playoffs. Every pass, every pivot, every possession matters.

One mistake can change everything.

The Warriors have been on both sides of the ball there.

“Those little things matter. One possession can change a whole series,” he said. “I always talk about when JR Smith got the rebound when [the Warriors] were playing the Cavs in the Finals. That one possession changed the whole series. The Cavs could have been up one game going into Game 2 with a different attitude going back home 1-1 to play three games at home in the Finals. Those things change everything.

“Just trying to be cognizant of what’s happening on the floor, helping my teammates. Because there’s so much happening. There’s so much fans, noise, coaches, refs, etc., etc. I just try to be valuable, man, to some capacity.”

Whether it be calling out plays from the bench, helping teammates on ball-screen coverages or filling up the stat sheet when he gets his chance, Toscano-Anderson’s value to the Warriors will be felt. He has seen the Warriors fall to heartbreak before and is going to do everything he can as part of the team to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

With the NBA mostly far in the back of his mind, Toscano-Anderson still remembers watching the Warriors outside his hotel in Panama while gearing up for FIBAs with the Mexican national team. That memory will never leave him, and it’s just a reminder of how far he’s come in turning dreams to reality.

“The whole time I remember thinking like, ‘Damn, I would rather be there watching the game.’ And now it’s like, ‘Damn, I’m there on the team.’ I remember those things pretty vividly,” Toscano-Anderson recalls. “I remember exactly where we were at.”

He’s here now as a well-established piece for a Warriors team with a championship-or-bust mentality. In a season that has largely been defined by inconsistencies, Toscano-Anderson’s energy and value on and off the box score have been atop the list of what the Warriors can trust. From warmups to the final buzzer, his passion for him will be felt all throughout Chase Center in Game 1 and beyond.

That’s a guarantee.

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