No turkey in Celtics start

If you are a Celtics fan you wake up this Thanksgiving morning thankful for how the season has started. That’s because without the game-altering shot-blocking of Robert Williams to be counted on until late December at best and with the team being led by an untested 34-year-old coach in the wake of the Ime Udoka disaster, you really had no idea what direction it would all take.

But with a seven-game winning streak in progress and an NBA-best 11-3 record as I write this for my early Thanksgiving deadline, things couldn’t have gone much better.

Here’s how it all went down.

Differences From Last Year: There was a lot of hand-wringing early on because the defense wasn’t as stingy as it had been in the run to the NBA Finals, when they had the top-ranked D in basketball. First, I don’t know why anyone expected them to match that with Lob it to Rob on the DL. But judging defense is also not solely done with points allowed, as that’s often a function of pace of play, because it reduces the number of possessions a team has to score. And with them leading the league in scoring at 120 points a game they are running more and thus the possessions are way up. A more reliable indicator is the shooting percentage by the bad guys because it shows how they are defending in each individual possession. It’s up a bit; not having Williams could account for that. So I don’t think the D is that off overall as the points allowed suggest.

What To Like Best: The passing has improved. Ditto for the ball movement in half court, which is different from find-the-open-man creative passing. Both of which speak to why the scoring is up. But what I like best is how well they are playing together. They’re tight. They know who’s open and get them the ball with no dilly-dallying and it doesn’t matter who it is. That’s a sign of a good team.

Leadership: Given the job, Udoka last year and the choice to replace him with a guy who was just 34 and had never been a head coach above Division 2 was a bit concerning. While I’m not ready to put him in the Hall of Fame just yet, I like what I have seen so far for two reasons. They have kept all the improvements that came last year from Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, like better shot selection and taking it to the basket being the first option. And they are running much more, which accentuates the athletic advantage Tatum and Brown offer. You really won’t be able to judge it until a bad stretch hits and the big games arrive. But so far so good on Joe Mazzulla.

The Stars

Jayson Tatum: Contrary to the gushing from the cheerleader (Scal) and Sean Grande, he hasn’t even been the best player those watching this year have seen. That would be Donovan Mitchell, who outplayed him down the stretch and in OTs in both losses to Cleveland. But he has clearly taken up a step over last year and is now legitimately moving up the list of the best Celtics. With the year he’s having, I might take him over Paul Pierce because he’s a better passer and defender.

Jaylen Brown: Extreme athleticism that lets him defend and rebound aside, what I like about him is how he adds something new to his game each year. This year it’s better passing and court awareness, which has made him even better.

Marcus Smart: He’s finally become a real point guard as opposed to a guy doing that because he’s the only one they have to play there. He now directs the action, gets the ball to people when they can do something with it, and has dramatically improved his shot selection, which has improved his three-point shooting. He also scores below the foul line on pull-up Js and post ups, which he’s good at because of his strength. And then there’s the reason I never would have traded him when others wanted to: his toughness.

Al Horford: I love this guy because he’s the most under-appreciated player in the NBA. A versatile defender who can cover anyone over 6’6”, who doesn’t need shots but can make them from distance when it counts. The backbone of the team.

The Depth: The 2016-2017 dumpster fire season’s depth hurt them because most of the players were even in talent with skills that duplicated each other and all thought they should play more. This bench is deep but constructed with guys who have specific roles and skills. The leader is Malcolm Brogdon, who I’d been begging Danny Ainge to trade for for four years. He is a consistent and clutch scorer who is great at getting below the foul line to score or dish. As much as I focus on what he’s not (not tall enough, limited offensively) Grant Williams is really reliable. What I should focus on is that he’s always in the right place, a versatile defender who does the dirty work and puts in the work needed to get better as his expanding offensive game shows. The other guys like Sam Hauser, Payton Pritchard and Luke Kornet are looking for a chance to play and are happy when it comes.

Biggest Surprise: When newly signed Danilo Gallinari went down for the year this summer many wanted a quick trade. Rather than panic, Brad Stevens elected to see what the untested Hauser could do in that role, and it looks like he was right. Again, it’s just 14 games, so no HoF nomination until we see how he does when teams make it a priority to give him no room to shoot. But with him shooting them at 48.5 percent, the jolt he gives off the bench is a plus, even when targeted for a defensive mismatch.

Hopefully it all continues.

Email Dave Long at

Land and water

The Nature Conservancy gets a new director

Meet Rachel Rouillard, the new state director of The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire.

What is your background conservation work?

I’m a New Hampshire native. I grew up in Keene. My parents were teachers science teachers, specifically so I was definitely raised in a home where they helped us cultivate a real appreciation and wonder for the natural world. We went to a lot of state and national parks. That was just part of our home life. … I followed that through school and into my career. … I got an internship in the town planning office in Milford, and that’s where I got my first taste of thinking about natural resource protection and land use. I also worked for the City of Manchester, doing some economic development and historic preservation work. … I was appointed as the first executive director of the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program. … Then, I was running a National Estuaries Program, which is an EPA Clean Water Act Program, here on the coast, and I did that for a little over a decade.

What led you to The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire?

The mission of protecting land and water for people of being both a steward of our natural resources and of our human communities is something that’s really central to who I am and everything I’ve done over the course of my career. Thinking about the intersection of our natural world and people, how natural resources support our communities and sustain us, and how people can both use and value those natural resources, is something that is really interesting to me and really drives me.

What does your job as state director entail?

It’s thinking a lot about partnerships, about how we can bring the creativity, resources and innovations that we have at TNC into those partnerships and how we can work collaboratively. … We work with other land trusts and state agencies to protect the lands and waters that we rely on and that are most critical to our future. These are the lands that are producing our clean drinking water. How can we improve public health outcomes while protecting biodiversity? … We also think about new ways that places can be used for recreation, how we can create more recreation opportunities for people and make them accessible to as many people as we can. Having opportunities to be in nature is really important to people’s well-being and to an overall society that’s healthy, vibrant and equitable.

What are some of the long-term goals you’re working on?

We’re thinking a lot about climate change and what we’re doing with our partnerships to really prepare for the impacts of climate change. We’re working to develop new solutions to help us address the aging infrastructure that we have when it comes to increasing storm events so that we can minimize the risk to public health and to public investment in infrastructure going forward. As our climate warms, we’re also facing an increased threat from new pests that are coming north and affecting our plant and animal species, so we have to think about how to build resilience in our ecological communities. We’re thinking about carbon and how we can help ensure opportunities for adequate carbon storage in the environment that we’re protecting and investing in. Lastly, we’re looking at clean energy and how we can work with our partnerships in the state to advance clean energy policies.

What do you find rewarding about your work?

On a personal level, I want to be part of something that is bigger than myself. I think we all feel that way. We all want to do something that we feel has deeper meaning and connection and benefit to others. I take that really seriously and appreciate the opportunity to be a steward of resources for our future. … In this line of work, you have to be really open-minded and always adapting the way that you’re thinking and working. I love the creativity and the challenge that’s associated with that.

Featured photoRachel Rouillard. Courtesy photo.

News & Notes 22/11/24

Money for more broadband

Gov. Chris Sununu submitted a letter to the members of the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee on Nov. 18, urging the acceptance and expenditure of $40 million for the Broadband Connect Program, according to a press release. In the letter, Sununu states that the program is “absolutely critical” for New Hampshire to retain and attract workforce, businesses, telehealth and other investments, and that broadband is necessary for access to health care, education and mental health services. “Delay of this authorization until 2023 puts extreme risk into our ability as a state to fulfill the promise to our constituents of high speed and affordable broadband in our most vulnerable areas,” Sununu wrote. “I ask that you support the citizens who are counting on this broadband item today.” The Committee approved a similar proposal for $50 million in July, providing 23,000 New Hampshire locations with access to high-speed, reliable internet.

Help for energy costs

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, along with U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan and U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas, have submitted a letter to the Department of Energy urging the acceleration of distribution of federal funds and programs under the bipartisan infrastructure law and Inflation Reduction Act to help cut energy costs for New Hampshire residents and to reduce the demand for fossil fuels. “As we enter into the winter months, we write to highlight specific challenges New Hampshire faces as global events continue to stoke volatility in oil and natural gas markets that in turn impact home heating costs and electricity prices for our constituents,” the letter stated. According to a press release, the delegation also called for preparation to use emergency authorities if warranted, and for the Department to work with federal agencies, industry fuel suppliers, utilities, grid operators, the State and other stakeholders to ensure that the energy infrastructure in place will be sustainable amid potential severe weather conditions this winter. The request follows an announcement made by the delegation earlier this month of the approval of $33.9 million in federal funding to support the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program (LIHEAP), which funds New Hampshire’s Fuel Assistance Program and helps low-income households pay their home heating and energy bills and other related expenses.

Decreased enrollment

The New Hampshire Department of Education announced that student enrollment in the state’s K-12 public schools is down by about 1 percent from last year. According to a press release, there are currently 161,755 students enrolled in New Hampshire public schools for the fall of 2022, compared to 163,600 students enrolled in 2021, and 163,288 students enrolled in 2020. Pre-pandemic, in 2019, student enrollment was at 171,866. Frank Edelblut, commissioner of education, said in the release that New Hampshire’s birth rate, which is currently the second lowest in the country at 8.8 per 1,000 population, along with an aging population, are contributing factors. “For the past two decades, student enrollment in New Hampshire has experienced a steady decline,” he said. “It is important for school leaders to understand how declining enrollment numbers may be impacting their districts and how to plan accordingly for the future.”

Child care policy

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services has announced a new policy effective Dec. 15 in which new hires in child care will not be permitted to start work until their background checks are complete — a process that can take six weeks or longer — NHPR reported. Under the current policy, employers can apply for a waiver from DHHS allowing new hires to start work immediately under the condition that they are not left alone with children until their background checks are completed. According to the article, the consensus among child care employers is that the new policy will make hiring a struggle, and that weeks-long job vacancies will be detrimental to their operations. DHHS stated that the waivers put them at risk of noncompliance with federal rules regarding child care workers and background checks, which could cost them a $700,000 penalty.

Fish & Game dispatch

New Hampshire Fish and Game Dispatch will be administered by New Hampshire State Police Dispatch within the New Hampshire Department of Safety, effective Nov. 25. According to a press release, the State Police Dispatch will relay calls to Fish and Game Conservation Officers. “For the past year or so, after-hours calls to our dispatch number have been handled by State Police, but this change will make it permanent and it will now be effective 24/7/365,” NH Fish and Game Law Enforcement Division Chief Colonel Kevin Jordan said in the release. The number currently used for Fish and Game Dispatch, 603-271-3361, will remain the same.

FEMA Funds

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded nearly $9 million to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services to reimburse the state for the cost of providing Covid tests to the public. According to a press release, DHHA had contracted with Clear ChoiceMD to offer free testing seven days a week at Clear ChoiceMD Urgent Care facilities in Belmont, Lincoln and Keene between December 2021 and March 2022. A total of 56,616 tests were administered during that period. FEMA has awarded more than $181 million in assistance to New Hampshire to reimburse the state for pandemic-related expenses, the release said.

School credit programs

Three new programs have been approved for New Hampshire’s Learn Everywhere program, an alternative pathway for students to earn high school credit. According to a press release, the programs include Spanish NVivo, which provides access to Spanish language acquisition opportunities; EnCube Labs, which will be supplemented with the existing Zero2Maker and Zero2Entrepreneur programs to help students learn through applied STEM while also building venture-launching skills; and FitMoney, a free financial literacy program. Launched in 2018, Learn Everywhere now offers 15 programs for New Hampshire students to earn credit outside of the classroom.

Winter parking rules begin in Manchester on Thursday, Dec. 1, with even-odd parking on one side of the street only (even during even-numbered calendar months, so in December for example; odd during odd-numbered months, like January), from 1 to 6 a.m. through April 15. All vehicles must be off streets during snow emergencies. See

The Dover Public Library will host a lecture on Indigenous land stewardship on Monday, Nov. 28, at 6:30 p.m. billed as “Celebrate N’Dakinna and the Life of Indigenous People on the Cocheco.” The presentation is in-person with a virtual viewing option. Call 516-6050 or go to to register.

The BJ Cirnigliaro Memorial Fund of Absolute Title (which has offices in Bedford, Concord and Portsmouth) donated a total of $20,000 to five local organizations: Families in Transition, Southern New Hampshire Services, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – New Hampshire Chapter, Gather and Waypoint, according to a press release.

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