Juan Toscano-Anderson is well acquainted with the saying, “Stay ready, because your number will be called.”
On a two-way contract with the Warriors, it’s how he approaches his job on a daily basis. So, when Steve Kerr activated Toscano-Anderson for Tuesday’s game against the Celtics, he was — you guessed it — ready.
But Toscano-Anderson’s responsibilities were different than what he expected entering the contest. When the Warriors lost Kevon Looney in the second quarter to a sprained left ankle, Toscano-Anderson was plugged into a primary frontcourt role — sometimes as a center.
“I’m always prepared,” Toscano-Anderson told reporters in a Zoom call after the game. “I’m kind of a positionless player. My whole goal is to earn the trust of Steve and the rest of the coaching staff. So, wherever he puts me to plug a hole, I’m just trying to be effective whether that’s initiating the offense, guarding the point guard, or playing the five.”
Toscano-Anderson was activated Tuesday afternoon, long before Looney’s injury. With James Wiseman out with a sprained wrist and Jordan Poole, Nico Mannion and Alen Smailagic in the G League bubble, Toscano-Anderson would have already been an integral part of the Warriors for the next week, and perhaps would have had a spot in the small-ball rotation. But when Looney went down, that became a done deal.
Kerr sees Toscano-Anderson as a Draymond Green-type player. They’re in different tiers of the league, but they are similar in the sense that they are both Swiss Army knives.
“(Juan) impacts everything,” Kerr said. “He can handle the ball, he can pass, he can step out and make a three … can guard anybody on the floor and if he’s off the ball, on offense or defense, he sees the chessboard … Juan just has an innate feel for the game so he’s a jack of all trades. He can play multiple positions and help us in a pinch any time we put him on the floor.”
“What a skill to be able to not even be active for, I don’t know, 10 games or so, and to come in and prepare day after day for his chance. Then his chance comes and he kills it.”
Against the Celtics, Toscano-Anderson scored 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-3 from the beyond the arc in 27 minutes. His 3-point shot is something Toscano-Anderson has been focusing on with coaches Leandro Barbosa and Aaron Miles.
According to Toscano-Anderson, the key to him being able to consistently stay ready when he doesn’t know when he’ll play is the coaching staff.
“The key is the culture here,” he said. “I think when you’re on a two-way, it’s easy to internalize a lot of things … and I don’t want to use the word pout, but get down on yourself for not playing. It’s hard to play two games, three games, four games, and then sit for six. But the coaches here, everyone has kept me involved. Everybody makes me feel a part of the team.”
In the month leading up to Tuesday’s game, Toscano-Anderson was averaging 9.8 minutes in just three games. He’s only played in seven games so far this season.
Kerr initially deactivated Toscano-Anderson for the last four games so he would able to play later in the season before reaching his 50-game max. Kerr knew there would be an opportunity for him to play more significant minutes, and that happens to be now.
With Wiseman out for seven to 10 days and Looney missing at least the next several games, Toscano-Anderson will be relied upon to repeat his performance from Tuesday night. No, that will not fill the void of having any healthy centers, but it will help.
Toscano-Anderson wouldn’t call his game against the Celtics the best game in his career because the Warriors lost, but it was a perfect display of the two-way presence and hustle he can add to the team.
“In my book, he’s not a two-way player,” Kerr said. “He’s a big part of our team and he showed why tonight.”