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Welsch is a fit in Ainge's '44'

WALTHAM -- When it came to selecting a uniform number, new Celtic Jiri Welsch made a bold choice: No. 44. You don't need a long memory to recall that was the number worn by director of basketball operations Danny Ainge. When Ainge saw Welsch in his No. 44 practice jersey, he gave the 23-year-old guard one piece of advice.

"He told me, `Whoever wears 44, there's one rule for them: Don't pass up the open shot,' " said Welsch.

It was an appropriate introduction to the Celtics. Even growing up in the Czech Republic, Welsch knew about the Celtics' storied history. Now he hopes to have a long stay in Boston, where he can develop. Coach Jim O'Brien plans to have him learn the offense from the point guard position.

"I'm glad to be here," said Welsch. "I'm excited to be here and we go from there. I know [the Celtics] are the most successful organization in NBA history -- most titles, great players, the most retired numbers I've ever seen in my life."

Welsch played in Europe for five seasons before joining the NBA. Last season, he appeared in 37 games for Golden State, averaging 1.6 points in 6.3 minutes. After being drafted in the first round (16th overall) by the 76ers in 2001, Welsch was traded to Golden State and then to Dallas. Once again, he faces a period of adjustment to a new team and a new system. And yesterday, he was not quite sure what to expect.

"I haven't talked to the coach yet, so we'll see," said Welsch. "I'm a good basketball player. I'm a good shooter. I have a good overall basketball game, versatility. That's what I'm bringing to the Celtics.

"I used to play point guard before I came to the NBA, in Europe. It's one of the toughest spots, being a point guard in the NBA, but I think I can handle it. I think I have a good chance to play here.

"Last year, my rookie season with the Warriors, I thought I could play more. It was a great experience and I learned a lot, mostly patience."

New team player

Antoine Walker insists he's a changed man. Forget that shoot-first attitude he had for seven seasons with the Celtics. He's a member of the Mavericks now. And yesterday, before putting on his Dallas jersey for the first time, he made it clear that he's ready to sacrifice his scoring average if that's what it takes to fit into his new team. Seated between team owner Mark Cuban and coach Don Nelson, Walker vowed to play whatever role he's asked, realizing that Dallas won 60 games without him last season. "I think it's a special situation," Walker said in his first appearance at American Airlines Center since being acquired from the Celtics in the five-player trade Monday. "You very seldom have the opportunity to play with guys of All-Star caliber like this. I don't want to spoil this opportunity." . . . An MRI on Jumaine Jones showed his hamstring damage was more extensive than originally thought, and he is expected to be out another 10-14 days.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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