Atlantic Notes: Mazzulla, Bridges, Thibodeau, Rajaković

Despite moving 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart and key reserve forward Grant Williams in separate summer trades, Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla intends to employ similar defensive principles in 2023/24, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

Himmelsbach adds that newly acquired big man Kristaps Porzingis has always been a solid defender around the rim, and can aid Boston at that end of the floor, too.

“With Marcus gone, we don’t want our defensive identity to go out the door as well, so we have to really emphasize that at the start of training camp,” Mazzulla said. “I think what Kristaps can bring to us defensively, and the additions some of our other guys can bring to us defensively, I want to make sure that’s where we hang our hats this year.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • As the Nets’ No. 1 option, small forward Mikal Bridges is striving to hone his play-making this offseason, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post (subscriber link). “Yeah, you could do [drills] … but it’s more of a mindset, and having that mindset coming in and watching film,” Bridges said of how he intended to improve. “That’s the biggest thing, to have that mindset of playmaking.”
  • The 2023/24 Knicks roster has been constructed with an eye towards the preferences of head coach Tom Thibodeau, under whom the team has had its most success in years, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Braziller notes that the trade addition of Josh Hart and the signing of Donte DiVincenzo, two defensively versatile wings, plus the subtractions of talented-but-raw forwards Cam Reddish and Obi Toppin, all seem to be in line with Thibodeau’s ethos to team-building.
  • In an interview with Sportski zurnal (as translated by Eurohoops), new Raptors head coach Darko Rajaković explained how he has always had major goals in mind with regard to his coaching career. “Since the beginning of my coaching career, I have always been very ambitious, but at the same time I knew that a coaching career is not a 100-meter race, but a long marathon,” Rajaković said. “I have only just run half a marathon, I still have a long way to go. I am currently in my 27th year of coaching. of work and I hope that I will stay in coaching for as long as possible. I’m enjoying it and it’s nice.”
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