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Veteran Battie still standing tall in plans

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- It may be hard to imagine overlooking a 6-foot-11-inch center. But with the return of Vin Baker, the emergence of Mark Blount, and the arrival of Kendrick Perkins, not much has been said or written about Tony Battie. The six-year veteran has started four of the five exhibition games in which he played. And he appears poised to keep his starting job, despite lengthy recovery and rehabilitation from offseason surgery on his right knee.

"It's early in the season and I'm still trying to get adjusted," said Battie. "I wouldn't say I lost confidence in my knee or anything like that, but I'm just easing myself along. I'm not relaxing by any means, but just trying to feel it out and see exactly where I am." Battie said the knee feels great.

"I feel a little bit of pain after the game's over and after practice is over, but by the next day I'm good enough to go," he said. "[It's figuring out] what pain will be there the rest of my career. I know what to expect from it. And I've kind of got a grasp on what pain should be there. Everything's good. It feels great. I'm running the floor extremely well."

It's hard to miss what Battie does on defense with his understanding of the system, rebounding, and shot-blocking. In his five exhibition appearances, including last night's game against the Pacers, Battie is averaging 4 points and 3 rebounds in just 19.8 minutes. Still, coach Jim O'Brien knows what Battie can do without needing to see it all in the preseason.

"Tony has won a lot of games starting at center for us," said O'Brien. "He was banged up last year and fought his way through it to give us a solid year despite not being able to practice.

"He got off to a little bit of a slow start. Coming off knee surgery, it's pretty much expected. But he really has been an anchor to our defense."

Celtics win

Sometimes practice would be a better use of time than an exhibition game, which was the case last night at the Verizon Wireless Arena, despite the fact Boston defeated Indiana, 84-80. The Pacers were missing seven players because of injuries, including Jermaine O'Neal (sore lower back), Reggie Miller (sore legs), and Ron Artest (sore knee).

"Winning is always better than losing, but tonight was as irrelevant an exhibition game as could possibly be played," said O'Brien.

Indiana head coach Rick Carlisle captured the lackluster contest with slightly more colorful language, "Well, it's hard when six foxes and a chicken are voting for what's for dinner, but I thought we hung in there, considering."

Competing against a depleted Indiana team, Boston did post some deceptively impressive statistics. The Celtics shot 47 percent and recorded 21 assists. Vin Baker looked particularly good with 11 points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes. In the second quarter, he went down with a bumped left knee, but remained in the game. Playing just 24 minutes, Paul Pierce led all Boston scorers with 16 points.

Doctor is in

The "Brain Doctor," also known as Jon Niednagel, was at Verizon Wireless Arena. Niednagel is being used by director of basketball operations Danny Ainge as a consultant for the Celtics. Ainge has spoken with Niednagel three times a week over the last 15 years, so it was a natural fit.

"Basically, what I do is try to figure out why people do what they do on and off the court," said Niednagel, who runs the Brain Type Institute in Missouri. "In the world of sports, the research I've done relates to not only how the mind works, but how the motor skills work. I look at the genetic elements of why people do what they do, more as an inborn perspective. I don't look as much at the nurturing aspects, the environmental aspects, but more the inborn proclivities."

In other words, Niednagel tries to determine what makes players tick and that helps in knowing how to best deal with them. The information Niednagel gathers gives the Celtics another set of tools in making personnel decisions.

Bird sightings

The city was abuzz with Larry Bird sightings, and Bird, Indiana's president of basketball operations, received a standing ovation when he entered the arena. There were repeated chants of "Larry, Larry" during the game; after the game, Bird even signed autographs for a section of lucky fans. Carlisle hopes all the attention doesn't discourage Bird from taking more trips with the Pacers. "When you're around Larry, it's kind of like walking around with Babe Ruth," said Carlisle . . . The Celtics are bringing in the big names, and they hope the big money, tomorrow night when they relaunch the Boston Celtics Charitable Foundation. The organization expects to raise more than $500,000 at the gala, to be held in Waltham at The Boston Sports Club at the Sports Authority Training Center. Among those scheduled to attend: Governor Mitt Romney, Mayor Thomas Menino, NBA Commissioner David Stern, Ainge, O'Brien, legends Red Auerbach, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Tommy Heinsohn, K.C. Jones, John Havlicek, Cedric Maxwell, Bill Walton, Jo Jo White, and the 2003-04 team. The event will include season previews by O'Brien and Ainge and welcoming remarks by cocaptains Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce. The foundation will benefit Children's Hospital Boston, The Horizons Initiative, and The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The Celtics owners, who are serving as co-chairs, will match every donation.

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