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Sunday basketball notes

Celtics star Jaylen Brown finds inspiration in 91-year-old social activist Jean McGuire

Jaylen Brown has vowed to make an impact on the community.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

It started when Jaylen Brown was looking for local activities for his grandfather. It ended with a two-hour meeting with Jean McGuire in her Boston home.

Brown, the Celtics forward and social justice activist, acknowledged he did not know much about McGuire’s impact on the community, but like many others he was stunned, and concerned, after the 91-year-old activist and creator of the METCO program was stabbed during her customary walk in Franklin Park on Oct. 11.

A Celtics security staff member informed Brown of an Oct. 30 event where community members were going to walk with McGuire in Franklin Park.

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Brown considered attending before the Celtics faced the Wizards, but McGuire was hospitalized that day. Brown connected with her representatives and visited her home Nov. 3.

“It was a great night. It was amazing,” Brown said. “I was trying to find some activities for my grandpa that he can do, whether it’s social events of people his age. She had to be rushed back to the hospital, so I told her if I could meet up with her another time I’d love to spend some time with her. I read the article. I wasn’t familiar with her before and the things that she’s done in her career in education and civil rights. So I thought she’d be a great person to go and spend some time with.”

Jean McGuire was the first Black woman elected to the Boston School Committee.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

McGuire is an educational pioneer, devising the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, a program that allowed disadvantaged kids from underrepresented communities to be bused to affluent schools outside their district. She was executive director of the program from 1973 until her retirement in 2016. McGuire was also the first Black woman elected to the Boston School Committee.

She recovered from her attack. Her assailant has not been apprehended.

Brown, 26, has made education the primary focus for his 7uice Foundation. He said the meeting with McGuire was motivational.

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“I just hung out for about an hour and a half, two hours, just talking about education,” Brown said. “Just talking about the experiences she has had in the city of Boston, in the past, what’s currently going on with gentrification in her neighborhood, how she feels about the METCO program, how she feels about all these different things, how she feels about voting. I’m really grateful she welcomed me into her home and I can’t wait to spend some more time with her and see what I can learn and help with things we’re both aligned with.”

It’s not common for NBA players to visit the homes of community leaders with no publicity attached. Brown posted photos from the visit on his Twitter page, but did not publicize his intention to visit. Players such as Brown and Malcolm Brogdon have promised to have more impact on the community outside of representing the Celtics.

Brown hopes the meeting with McGuire will foster his quest to improve educational opportunities for disadvantaged kids.

“Building inter-generationally is important, too,” he said. “How she grew up was a different time frame. It was a lot of the same problems and things that might have been going on during that time, still some subtle difference on what’s going on now, the same obstacles in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s that are still happening today, they just look differently and they just call them different terms.

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“To be able to point those out, to be able to talk to her and work with her about how to build and strategize was really cool, it was amazing.”

A LOOK AROUND THE NBA

Early surprises, disappointments

At age 34, and in his first head coaching stint, Will Hardy (right) has Jordan Clarkson and the Jazz off to a surprisingly strong start.Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

The NBA is never boring, and it’s astounding that we aren’t even one month into the regular season and there are a number of story lines, a bunch of surprises, and disappointments.

The playoff race is heating up, as are MVP and Rookie of the Year competitions, and two former Celtics assistants will likely vie for the Coach of the Year.

Surprises

Utah Jazz — Remember when Danny Ainge and the rest of the Jazz brass traded Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell? The perception was Utah was positioning itself for the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. That quest was short-lived because Ainge has compiled a team that is young and hungry, but still talented. The Jazz acquired Collin Sexton and Lauri Markkanen from the Cavaliers in the Mitchell deal and a group of hungry players from the Timberwolves in the Gobert trade. The result has been the best record in the Western Conference. Utah has beaten the Grizzlies and Lakers twice, plus the Clippers, Hawks, and Timberwolves. It’s the most astounding story in recent years because the Jazz had every intention of starting over. Now Ainge has seven first-round picks from the Gobert and Mitchell trades as well as young talent to move forward with in the West.

Cleveland Cavaliers — General manager Koby Altman believed his team was one player away from being a factor in the Eastern Conference. The addition of Mitchell has turned the Cavaliers into a contender for the top seed, with two wins over the Celtics and a roster with three primary scorers and two elite defenders in the frontcourt. Mitchell gives the Cavaliers the closer they needed to join Caris LeVert and Darius Garland, while Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen are developing into forces in the paint. Kevin Love has embraced his bench role and coach J.B. Bickerstaff has turned into a top-notch leader. The Cavaliers are no longer a team on the rise, but a team that’s arrived.

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Portland Trail Blazers — The organization has faith that Damian Lillard, Jerami Grant, and Jusuf Nurkic can lead a bunch of youngsters and become a contender. The key to the resurrection has been the development of Anfernee Simons. Simons was a nonfactor his first three seasons before blossoming last year. This season, he has become the perfect complement to Lillard, while general manager Joe Cronin has built a young, athletic bench with Nassir Little, rookie Shaedon Sharpe, ex-Laker Josh Hart, and former first-round pick Justise Winslow. Lillard is averaging nearly 29 points per game, shooting 48 percent from the field, and 40.8 percent from the 3-point line. He has played in just seven games because of rest and injury, but Portland is 9-3 with wins at the Lakers, Heat, Suns, and Pelicans.

Indiana Pacers — The Pacers are 5-6, but they have been competitive and exciting to watch despite trade rumors surrounding Myles Turner and Buddy Hield. After starting 1-4, Indiana has wins over the Nets, Heat, Wizards, and Pelicans. The most surprising player in the NBA is rookie Bennedict Mathurin, who is second on the club in scoring despite coming off the bench in all 11 games. Mathurin, who made preseason headlines by saying he was ready to challenge the game’s greats, including LeBron James, is shooting 43.7 percent from the 3-point line and will push Paolo Banchero for Rookie of the Year honors. Tyrese Haliburton has become the franchise cornerstone and is chasing a 50-40-90 season.

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There have been plenty of reasons not to watch the Lakers (2-10) this season.Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Disappointments

Los Angeles Lakers — The Lakers are struggling, off to a 2-10 start with James out with an adductor injury and Anthony Davis playing as if his prime years are over. The Lakers made a lot of offseason promises after reshaping their roster and disposing of many aging pieces, but the combination of James and Davis isn’t good enough to win consistently anymore.

Miami Heat — The Heat didn’t make any major offseason moves besides signing Tyler Herro to a contract extension and it appears something is missing from a club that was one game away from the NBA Finals last season. Jimmy Butler remains the catalyst, while Herro and Bam Adebayo have been solid, but Kyle Lowry, despite being in better shape, has struggled from the field. Gabe Vincent and Duncan Robinson are having below-average seasons from beyond the arc. The Heat are 24th in points and 25th in field goal percentage. Adebayo has made strides offensively but still doesn’t get the Heat many easy points. What’s more concerning is the Heat are struggling with a home-heavy schedule.

Minnesota Timberwolves — The acquisition of Gobert was supposed to put them among the elite teams in the Western Conference. So far, however, it’s been the same old Timberwolves, unable to compete with contending teams, beating inferior teams, and languishing around .500. Minnesota has lost to the Spurs twice and went 1-3 on a four-game homestand with the Knicks, Rockets, Suns, and Bucks. They were only able to beat downtrodden Houston. Gobert is averaging a double-double, but the issue is defense. The Timberwolves are 23rd in points allowed and 24th in opponents’ 3-point percentage, meaning Gobert is preventing opponents from attacking the rim only for them to feast from the 3-point line. Karl-Anthony Towns is having trouble adjusting to Gobert and his offensive numbers have dipped.

Golden State Warriors — There isn’t concern yet because the franchise knows all about winning and getting itself together as the season progresses, but no one envisioned a 4-7 start and a winless five-game East Coast trip. The problem is not Stephen Curry. He has carried the Warriors, but is getting no help. Klay Thompson has struggled from the field in his first healthy season since missing two-plus years with injuries. Jordan Poole signed a contract extension but hasn’t lived up to expectations, shooting 40 percent from the field. Draymond Green has been a model citizen since punching Poole, but he hasn’t made much of an impact defensively. The Warriors have the second-worst scoring defense (San Antonio is worst) and are 22nd in opponents’ field goal percentage. The Warriors are getting into shootouts but can’t get defensive stops late in games.

ETC.

Appears offense is taking over

All but two NBA teams are averaging 30 or more 3-point attempts per game.Stephen Lam/Associated Press

Other early observations on the season:

▪ With the NBA turning into a more offensive league, the days of good defensive teams averaging in the 100-point range are over. The Suns are No. 1 in scoring defense at 104.7 points per game. The Celtics were No. 1 in the NBA last season at 104.5. They are currently 19th at 114.2. Meanwhile, all but two teams are attempting 30 or more 3-pointers per game, meaning perimeter defense is paramount. Players such as Jayson Tatum and Kevin Durant are putting more emphasis on defense because it equates to winning.

▪ The Eastern Conference is turning out to be more competitive than expected. Even Detroit and Orlando, which appear headed back to the lottery, are tough opponents on most nights. Teams such as Washington, Toronto, New York, and Brooklyn are going to vie for the final four playoff spots. Philadelphia and Miami were initially picked to finish in the top four but are off to slow starts that may cost them a chance at home-court advantage in the early rounds.

▪ Besides the Lakers and Rockets, the Western Conference is treacherous because even the rebuilding teams are improving. Oklahoma City, Sacramento, and even San Antonio are tough outs. Golden State is struggling because of a lack of defense. The Clippers were expected to soar to the top, but Kawhi Leonard is out indefinitely, while the Pelicans and Mavericks are mired in inconsistency.

▪ The league’s roster crunch has squeezed out former All-Stars such as Carmelo Anthony, DeMarcus Cousins, Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Isaiah Thomas. Those players are likely going to have to wait until 10-day contracts are available in January to get an opportunity. Teams would rather cultivate prospects with less baggage than take a chance on a guaranteed contract with the aforementioned players. The Celtics signed Blake Griffin to a guaranteed contract, but he has been a good locker room influence and accepted a lesser role. The question teams have for those other veteran players is whether they would remain positive influences despite a lack of playing time.

Layups

The Lakers are stuck in a major quandary. They are 2-10 after Friday’s loss to Sacramento and none of the offseason moves that general manager Rob Pelinka envisioned boosting the team have worked. He tried to surround LeBron James and Anthony Davis with young players looking for a second opportunity to flourish, and it’s failed. The Lakers are the worst shooting team in the league. Kendrick Nunn, who missed last season with knee issues, is shooting 32.8 percent and Patrick Beverley is at 28.6. James, who has turned into more of a perimeter player, is averaging 7.1 3-point attempts (second most in his career) and is shooting 23.9 percent. Davis, once one of the game’s top perimeter-shooting big men, is shooting 26.8 percent on jump shots. Pelinka needed to get major talent to take the pressure off Davis and James, and he hasn’t. But he likely didn’t expect Davis to take such a dip before his 30th birthday. The Lakers are either going to have to sacrifice their first-round draft picks via trade or wait until the offseason, when Russell Westbrook’s $47 million salary comes off the books, to upgrade the roster. But with James turning 38 next month, the organization has little time to waste in terms of improvement. The Lakers have little chance of even making the play-in unless Pelinka decides to make a midseason deal, and that still may not elevate the Lakers to anything more than a first-round layup for Phoenix, Utah, or the rival Clippers … Catching up with former Celtics: Pacers guard Aaron Nesmith is returning after missing four games with a foot injury. He is averaging 7.4 points and shooting 28 percent from the 3-point line on a team that’s playing better than expected. Former first-round pick Romeo Langford has not broken into Gregg Popovich’s rotation in San Antonio since being acquired in the Derrick White trade. He has played in seven of the team’s 13 games and is averaging 4.3 points. The Spurs did not sign Langford to a rookie extension, making him a restricted free agent this coming summer. The Spurs have filled their roster with young talent, making Langford expendable. Josh Richardson has averaged 11.3 points off the bench for San Antonio, shooting 40 percent from the 3-point line.

Former Celtics first-round pick Aaron Nesmith is still trying to find his shot with the Pacers.Nick Wass/Associated Press

Gary Washburn is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at gary.washburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.