Warriors

Oakland's Juan Toscano aims to inspire in push to make Warriors roster

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USATSI

Oakland's Juan Toscano aims to inspire in push to make Warriors roster

SAN FRANCISCO -- Warriors training camp invitee Juan Toscano walked along a white backdrop inside Golden State's practice facility during Monday's media day just like any other player. Like his new teammates, Toscano participated in a series of poses and mock dunks as photographers snapped photos. Towards the end of his session, a team staffer handed Toscano a Mexican flag, giving a special symbolism to the occasion. 

Toscano currently is one of two players of Mexican descent in NBA training camps this fall. An East Oakland native, many of Golden State's best and worst moments happened within walking distance of his immigrant grandfather's home.

Now, after an impressive career in Latin America, the 26-year-old is looking to make good on his NBA dream. 

"I was really nervous. I ain't going to lie," he admitted. "It felt surreal, just ... being in this gym, being in these facilities, seeing all these banners up."

The number 95 that rested underneath Toscano's Mexican flag Monday holds a special meaning for the forward. Four decades ago, Toscano's grandfather immigrated from Michoacán and bought a house on 95th and A Street, tucked in the heart of East Oakland's Elmhurst neighborhood.

Though mixed with African descent, he visited Mexico once when he was six, celebrated Mexican holidays and regularly spoke Spanish growing up. However, in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, Toscano lived a double life of sorts. 

"I just gravitated towards African-American culture," Toscano said. "All my friends are African American. So it was just like, I was Mexican at home, but in the streets or at school I was -- I am half black but that's the music; I listen to hip-hop, to black culture, or African-American culture or urban culture. At home we spoke Spanish, we eat Mexican food, celebrate Mexican holidays. I had both growing up, though." 

His life's duality manifested in the evolution of his name. As a prep star at Castro Valley High School, he went by Juan Anderson, lead the Trojans to a 30-2 record and a CIF NorCal Championship berth his senior year, averaging 16.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. He kept the name at Marquette, where he was a three-year starter with the Eagles. 

"I just always went with Juan Anderson," Toscano said. "I guess cause it was just simpler, and I guess more Americanized. ... On my birth certificate, it's always been Toscano-Anderson. You look in the school book, like the first day of school when they call, they always call Juan Toscano-Anderson." 

Following his college career, it was his Mexican lineage that saved his basketball life. After four years in Marquette, Toscano had zero offers overseas, let alone from the NBA in 2015 after his senior year. Then, on a trip to Charlotte to see his former coach Buzz Williams, he got a call from Mexican national team officials. 

Toscano flew to Mexico City just hours after returning home from Charlotte. By the end of the summer, Toscano was playing in 2015 FIBA Americas Championship, competing against NBA talent like Andrew Wiggins, J.J. Barea and Luis Scola. In a semi-final loss to Argentina, he tallied 10 points, two rebounds and two assists. Offers started pouring in soon after, causing another name change.  

"When I went to Mexico and when I got my passport, I had to play with Toscano because that's how I got my passport," he said. "Toscano was my Mexican name, so that's just what I use. That's what I put on my jersey. And I'm going to start in my career. So everybody in regards to the basketball world, everybody outside of the United States, know me as Juan Toscano." 

Stints in Argentina and Venezuela soon followed. But he flourished in Mexico, leading Fuerza Regia de Monterrey -- a squad in Mexico's top league --to the postseason the last two years. In 2018, he earned MVP honors, averaging 14.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists in 29.8 minutes per game. By 25, he was one of the top players in the league, making six figures and becoming one of the faces of Mexico's basketball scene. 

"They showed me so much love," Toscano said. "They were always offering to cook food for me, invited me over to eat, give me rides places. I didn't have a car out there and stuff, just everything man. They're real good people.

"I'm in airports, like I go on vacation and Cancun and Cabo all the time. So it was like when I was traveling through the airport, and it's not like two or three people stopping me to take pictures. Like, TSA started asking me to take pictures."

All the while, the NBA still remained a dream. As Toscano became a cultural figure in Mexico, he was on the phone with Santa Cruz Warrior Jabari Brown, his longtime friend.

As kids, Brown and Toscano dominated the Bay Area prep scene. Years later, Brown was encouraging his friend to keep his NBA aspirations alive.

Brown was also on another line with Santa Cruz Warriors assistant general manager Ryan Atkinson, who ultimately invited Toscano to a local tryout at the Warriors' former practice facility atop the Oakland Marriott last year. Alongside former Division I standouts, it was Toscano who stood out. Not heralded as a scorer, he was noticed for his energy. 

"I remember walking past and I'm looking," said Aaron Miles, current Warriors assistant and former Santa Cruz Warriors coach. "And I just hear somebody say, "I got ball!, I got ball! No, no, you go over there, and you sitting back!" and I'm like, 'man, okay. I like that.' I couldn't tell if he could shoot or not, but that stood out to me."

While Toscano impressed, he still didn't have a guaranteed spot entering training camp. Worse, he was forgoing six-figure deals in Mexico for a long shot to make Santa Cruz's roster. 

"I remember the first time we talked to him, me and [the Santa Cruz Warriors general manager] Kent [Lacob], we sat down, we talked to them and let them know, listen, ain't nothing promised here," Mile said. "We know you've got option up in Mexico to do things, but ain't nothing promised. And he said, 'Listen, I ain't ask for no handouts.'

"That was a lot of money to turn down. But like [Jabari] said, 'What do you have to lose?' I'm a local there. I have a passport, Mexican passport, so I can always go back. Thank God they love me there. They show me a lot of love. So they would always accept me with open arms. But like I said, man, sometimes you got to bet on yourself." 

Toscano made the team, going from benchwarmer to full-time starter by the end of the season, averaging 7.0 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. His performance led to a Summer League invite, where his energy caught the eye of the Golden State Warriors and a training-camp invite soon followed. 

[RELATED: Warriors ready for wedding day at new Chase Center]

Growing up in East Oakland, Toscano saw Golden State's evolution from laughingstock to champs. He was in middle school when the "We Believe" Warriors shocked the NBA, and he finished college just as the team ended its 40-year championship drought.

Now, though a long shot to make the roster, he hopes he can be an inspiration to those watching him on the other side of the Bay. 

"I just want to continue to raise the bar for my people, he said. "My people here in Oakland, my people in the Bay area, and the whole country that's behind me. So is it pressure? Yes and no. Maybe I've placed that pressure on myself, but its good pressure, man.

"What's the worst that could happen, that they send me back to Santa Cruz? OK then, I'll keep working, one day hopefully they have a spot in this league. And if not, then it just wasn't meant for me. But if I can inspire one kid or two kids, or inspire multiple kids there, I've done my job. So that gives me a lot of satisfaction in just inspiring people and seeing kids look up to me, and I just want to continue to embrace that role."

Watch Steph Curry FaceTime brave coronavirus nurse wearing his jersey

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USATSI

Watch Steph Curry FaceTime brave coronavirus nurse wearing his jersey

An Oakland nurse turns to her beloved Steph Curry jersey for strength and inspiration while caring for patients affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Curry himself gave her some more personally over FaceTime on Tuesday.

The Warriors star called Shelby Delaney, an ICU nurse at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, and thanked her and her colleagues for their tireless work ahead of their Tuesday night shift.

“I love it,” Curry said in a video posted on Delaney’s Facebook page (via Bay Area News Group). “I can’t thank God enough for what you’re doing and just the sacrifice, the selflessness and the way everybody’s coming together. Thank you so much for what you do, your heart and the inspiration you provide for everybody.”

Coronavirus patients began being admitted to Alta Bates last month, and Bay Area News Group’s Julia Prodis Sulek reported Wednesday that Delaney was one of the first nurses to volunteer to care for them. Loved ones can’t visit affected patients in order to limit the virus’ spread, but Delaney stands by her their side and offers reassurance.

Delaney revealed last week in a Facebook post that she wore her Curry jersey under her scrubs on a day she “felt powerless and defeated … [needing] to summon her inner Warrior.” She instructed how people could help nurses like her in the fight against the coronavirus, employing the Warriors’ “Strength in Numbers” mantra.

Her post prompted Bay Area News Group to reach out to the Warriors, and Prodis Sulek wrote that Curry wanted to personally reach out to Delaney and her colleagues.

“I wanted to thank you for how much you inspired me,” she said (via Bay Area News Group), “especially when I first started my job here, it’s a really steep learning curve, you have two people that you’re trying to make sure they don’t die on shift, and a lot of tough stuff going on with family.

“There were times I wanted to quit, give up. … That’s when I started wearing the jersey. That was like, just my way of kind of gathering my strength, reminding myself I’ve got this.”

[RELATED: Dubs' Myers uses sports analogy for coronavirus optimism]

Curry has long been Delaney’s favorite player, and Prodis Sulek reported Delaney owns 10 Curry jerseys. Delaney’s first date with her husband was at a Warriors game at Oracle Arena, and the two had a Warriors-themed wedding last summer.

Delaney changed into a pair of Under Armour’s Curry 4 sneakers when it was time to hit the dance floor on her wedding night, and she was wearing Curry 6s on Tuesday.

“I appreciate that,” Curry said. “What we do is fun and all that, but more people need to know about what goes on in your world … especially in a pandemic like this, so thank you to you, the whole staff, everybody.

“We are praying for you, thinking about you guys. I wanted to just thank you personally for sharing your story.”

How Warriors' Steph Curry vanquished his 'stopper' in 2015 NBA Finals

How Warriors' Steph Curry vanquished his 'stopper' in 2015 NBA Finals

For a couple days in June 2015, Matthew Dellavedova’s game was a prominent storyline in the NBA Finals.

Stephen Curry made sure it didn’t last.

Dellavedova spent most of that season as a Cavaliers reserve. That changed after the Warriors won Game 1 of The Finals. Cleveland coach David Blatt elevated the second-year guard into the starting lineup for Game 2 with a very specific assignment: Contain Curry, by any means necessary.

The former Saint Mary’s College star responded with 42 minutes of wrestling and grabbing and shoving and bumping Curry, who finished with 19 points, on 5-of-23 shooting from the field, including 2-of-15 from deep.

“Steph Stopper.” That was Delly. The Cavaliers won Game 2 in Oakland and took Game 3 in Cleveland, backing the Warriors into a corner and prompting them to make a significant lineup change of their own.

They replaced 7-foot center Andrew Bogut with 6-foot-7 Andre Iguodala, moving 6-foot-7 Draymond Green to center. They were going small. That was the decisive tactical adjustment that tilted the series toward the Warriors.

Curry, though, had his own move to make. After putting in 22 points as the Warriors rolled to a 21-point victory in Game 4, tying the series at 2-2, it was time to come home for Game 5 -- which NBC Sports Bay Area will re-air Wednesday night at 8 p.m. -- and kill a flawed narrative.

Curry, you see, wasn’t satisfied. He was the league MVP. The Warriors were 39-2 at Oracle Arena and not about to lose and go down 3-2. Dellavedova was in trouble.

Curry carried the team with 37 points, including a dazzling 17-point fourth quarter, to lift the Warriors to a 104-91 victory that gave them a 3-2 series lead.

"Not a lot you can do, honestly,” Blatt said in admiration. “He made some terrific shots."

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With Curry burying, once and forever, the spurious notion of Delly being the “Steph Stopper,” the Cavs went back to Cleveland without legitimate answers to the problems posed by the Warriors’ small lineup in general and by Curry in particular.

To understand the impact Curry had in Game 5, the other four Warriors in the starting lineup -- Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Iguodala and Green -- combined for 50 points on 41 shots.

Curry’s 37 points came on 15-of-23 shooting, including 7-of-13 beyond the arc. No matter how scrappy Dellavedova was, Curry consistently found a way to abuse him. Whether it was nasty crossovers, wicked step-backs or coming off screens, the MVP sent a message that the mere idea of a “Steph Stopper” is pure folly.

"Falling, step-backs off the dribble. I'm OK with that. We're OK with that,” LeBron James said. “You tip your hat to the best shooter in the league."

Curry read the situation and knew it was time for a convincing reply to Dellavedova and the Cavaliers. He knew that even the slightest hint of being neutralized would make the Warriors vulnerable. So, he tortured Delly.

“Those are plays I’ve been making all year,” he said. “And moves I’m confident in.”

The Cavs kept the game tight, taking an 80-79 advantage on a James 3-pointer with 7:47 to play. Curry answered with a triple, giving the Warriors a two-point lead they never relinquished -- mostly because he scored 12 points in the final 3:10.

"We didn't turn it over, we were patient," Thompson said. "And two words: Stephen Curry."

[RELATED: GOAT stuff: Steph, Sabrina hoop while social distancing]

It was Curry driving the Game 5 triumph and pushing the Warriors to the brink of their first championship in 40 years.

The “Steph Stopper” subplot was cute but not built to last. Curry wasn’t having it then, won’t have it now. That much rang loud and clear in Game 5.