Atlantic Notes: Randle, Maxey, Gray, Mazzulla

Injured All-Star Knicks power forward Julius Randle is now out of the protective walking boot he had worn since spraining his left ankle on March 29, writes Steve Popper of Newsday.

“Yeah, just the next step, following the protocol progression,” New York head coach Tom Thibodeau said of Randle’s departure from the boot. “So making good, steady progress.”

Popper notes that the team is hopeful Randle can return at some point during the postseason. The first game of the Knicks’ Eastern Conference quarterfinals matchup against the Cavaliers is scheduled for this Saturday.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey has had a 2022/23 season filled with peaks and valleys. At one point, he was demoted to a bench role in favor of De’Anthony Melton due to Melton’s defensive play. Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer unpacks how Maxey bounced back to once again becoming the team’s starting shooting guard. Maxey missed roughly six weeks of action due to fracturing a foot in November, and was relatively unaggressive upon his return. A pair of no-nonsense chats in February with All-NBA Philadelphia center Joel Embiid, who encouraged the third-year guard to look for his own shot more often, helped galvanize his resurgence. Maxey rejoined the club’s starting five on March 2. “I was just in a weird space mentally,” Maxey said of the slump. “Once I got out of that, I think I’ve helped us try to win games and came back to being myself. I feel like this was the same type of pace I was on at the beginning of the year, before I got hurt.” 
  • The Nets’ new two-way signing, RaiQuan Gray, enjoyed a terrific debut game with Brooklyn on Sunday, scoring 16 points on 50% shooting, pulling down nine rebounds, dishing seven dimes and rejecting one shot. Net Income of Nets Daily unpacks potential next steps for the 23-year-old rookie. Net Income believes Brooklyn will extend a qualifying offer to Gray by the June 29 deadline and anticipates he will suit up for the team’s Summer League club in July.
  • First-year Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla is looking forward to facing Boston’s playoff challenges head-on, writes Steve Bulpett of “Listen, you can’t run away from the fact that the playoffs have a different consequence,” Mazzulla told Bulpett. “But the bigger things are, the more simple they are. So my goals are to do the same things I’ve done all season — rely on my staff, rely on the players and rely on the experience that I’ve had, because I’ve worked for great people… Our locker room is really intact, and I think that’s just as important as anything else.”
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