Atlantic Notes: Rajakovic, Randle, R. Williams

In a fascinating profile, Eric Koreen of The Athletic details Darko Rajakovic‘s journey to becoming the Raptors‘ new head coach.

Rajakovic got his NBA start thanks to his relationship with Thunder executive vice president and general manager Sam Presti, first in the then-D-League and later with Oklahoma City. Presti met Rajakovic in Europe as a young executive with the Spurs, and was impressed by his attention to detail, passion and work ethic, Koreen writes.

He’s fought himself all the way to this point,” Presti said. “I think there is a level of toughness that comes with that, to work that path the way that he did, to get to the point where he’s the head coach of an NBA team. I don’t know how you can’t respect that and also be extremely happy for him.”

As Koreen notes, one of Rajakovic’s strengths is his adaptability, which should come in handy with Toronto’s roster in a somewhat precarious position entering 2023/24. It’s an excellent article and I highly recommend it for those who subscribe to The Athletic.

Here’s more from the Atlantic:

  • Left ankle problems plagued Julius Randle to end last season, but the Knicks‘ All-NBA forward believes undergoing arthroscopic surgery a couple months ago may have been a blessing in disguise, as Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News relays. “Me and my trainer were just talking about this, we were talking about prime years,” Randle said Wednesday as a guest on The Shop Uninterrupted. “And I feel like your prime is when your mental and physical kind of meet. And physically I feel like this is going to be my best year. But mentally I feel like I’ve taken a tremendous step because I’ve had to slow all the way down. I wasn’t allowed to train.” Randle also said he drew inspiration from teammate Jalen Brunson due to the point guard’s diligence and focus, per Bondy.
  • What’s next for Robert Williams following the arrival of Kristaps Porzingis? The Celtics big man needs to become more aggressive offensively, dribble more often, and add a short-range jump shot to keep opposing defenses honest, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Of course, the biggest question mark surrounding Williams might not be his on-court play but rather his health, given that he has appeared in just 209 regular season games over his five NBA seasons, including 35 in ’23/24.
  • In case you missed it, the Knicks, Raptors and Celtics all officially made roster moves on Tuesday.
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