Jim Todd, the former Raptors assistant coach who endeared himself to Raptor fans with his frank halftime assessments of the team's performances during many a TV broadcast during his three-year run in Toronto, is possessed of a New England lilt and a way with words. For a while last year, he wasn't so sure if Andrea Bargnani knew more than a word or two of English.
Working with the Italian centre in practice, "it was always one-word answers."
Like any good coach, though, Todd took time to observe his pupil in his natural environment – the locker room.
"He was speaking in paragraphs," said Todd. "I'd been punked."
It's been an interesting time for a lot of former Raptor coaches. On Tuesday night, Larry Krystkowiak, the Bucks head coach, was with his wife Jan at a local hospital welcoming baby twin girls who arrived, a couple of five-pounders, just after tipoff. That which meant one-time members of the Raptors family tree saw their responsibilities increased. Tony Brown, once a Raptors assistant under Kevin O'Neill, was named the replacement head coach – which meant Toronto, who saw Boston assistant Tom Thibodeau step in for Doc Rivers on Sunday after Rivers left the team in the wake of his father's death – lost to a clipboard understudy for the second straight game.
And the other day O'Neill's picture was in the sports pages of USA Today. An assistant coach to Lute Olson at the University of Arizona, he has been promoted to interim head coach while Olson takes an indeterminate leave of absence.
In any event, Todd, who left the Raptors to return to Milwaukee, another former professional home, offered a few insights to the travelling scribes.
He said Yi Jianlian, the Chinese forward who was drafted sixth overall by the Bucks in the June draft, reminds him of Bargnani, and not only because Yi may or may not be holding back in his use of English. "They're almost twins. They’re a carbon copy of each other," said Todd. "They both came into the league young. They both shoot the three-ball. Andrea probably has maybe a little more range. They both can play inside. They’re both learning how to play defence. They both got in foul trouble as rookies." (Yi outplayed Bargnani, not to mention most of the Toronto frontline, on Tuesday night, X).
He predicted that Bargnani, several years down the line, could be an MVP candidate. "What can’t he do?"
He said the Raptors are unmatched in the league in their surplus of perimeter shooters. "Nobody in the league has the weapons they have. Nobody has that. They've put all good guys together … They could drop 25 threes on you without blinking an eye."
He joked that he only gets to address Milwaukee’s television audience once every few games (the Bucks assistants rotate the halftime-interview duties) because "they don't realize my talent yet."