More than a few Warriors fans long for a reunion with Andre Iguodala, and it doesn’t matter that he’ll turn 38 years old next season. There are significant barriers, of course, but that doesn’t stop nostalgia from tugging at the heart.
The chatter has made its way into the ears of Juan Toscano-Anderson, who spent last season evolving from two-way afterthought to rotation staple to such a key component of the Warriors that he was rewarded with a standard NBA contract.
He remembers watching the Warriors during the Iguodala years (2013-2019) and becoming enamored with the way the team’s “Death Lineup,” which included Andre, altered the course of games.
To listen to Toscano-Anderson, nine years younger than Igoudala, is to realize he craves a chance to have a similar effect.
“I hear a lot of fans say they want Andre back, which is great,” he told NBC Sports Bay Area this week. “He’s a great player. But I’m Juan. I want to be myself. I admire him and respect him and I know what he brought to this team. I hope I can somewhat try to fill in those shoes.”
Iguodala was Golden State’s multipurpose impact guy. As the sixth man, he would observe from the bench and upon entering the game try to deliver what was needed. Need to intensify the defense, on and off the ball? OK. Need to lubricate a sticky-ball offense? On it. Need a guy to get a bucket if the shooters were swarmed? Got it.
Toscano-Anderson answered many of those calls last season -- particularly over the final five weeks, as the Warriors sprinted into the play-in tournament. He shot a team-high 60.6 percent from the field, including a respectable 36.4 percent from deep. As the Warriors were winning eight of nine games in May, his 8.2 rebounds per game tied Draymond Green for team-high. JTA had more assists (46) than everybody except Green.
Toscano-Anderson’s value is best exhibited by the fact that over those nine games, he played exactly the same number of minutes, 277, as did Stephen Curry and Green.
Like Iguodala, JTA’s impact typically is greater than the sum of his statistics.
“I really admired that (“death lineup”), with Andre and those guys,” Toscano-Anderson said. “Hopefully, we can recreate some of that.
“Obviously, it’s a different team. I don’t want to be Andre Iguodala. I want to be myself.”
That was good enough last season, and it’s not an insult to describe Toscano-Anderson as a “poor man’s Andre.” Being promoted from a two-way contract to a standard deal bumped JTA’s annual pay from about $400,000 to about $1.7 million. Iguodala, by contrast, has made roughly $170 million in his career, including $15 million last season.
The Miami Heat have until Aug. 1 to decide whether to pick up the $15 million option on Iguodala’s 2021-22 contract.
Should they do so, they then can either bring him back for another season or use his contract as part of a sign-and-trade to acquire a youngish star. Expiring contracts have certain, um, appeal on the market.
The only way Iguodala would return to the Warriors is if there is yet another transaction, after which he is bought out and becomes a free agent. Put simply, it’s the longest of shots.
JTA, however, is going nowhere. Teammates and coaches have come to appreciate his contributions, tangible and intangible. He is, after all, their master of scrap, willing to sacrifice his body for the good of the team.
Elements of a PJ Tucker or a Patrick Beverley or a Jae Crowder, three guys with significant roles during the conference finals.
“They’re tough guys, fearless and reinforce that boldness for their superstars,” JTA said. “That’s what I always tell Steph, ‘You don’t gotta worry about nothing. If I’m on the floor, I’ll take the tech for you. I’m in the mix for you.’
“Dray and all those guys, they know that. I’m one of those guys. Every team needs that. Every team needs a leader. Every team needs a guy who is going to get down when it’s time to get down. Every team needs a guy who is going to knock down big shots. You need all those components to be a great team.”
That attitude endears JTA to Dub Nation, the citizens of which have plenty of fond memories of Iguodala. Toscano-Anderson craves only the chance to provide some new moments to savor.