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Batista, Jones come on board

Celtics size up, round out roster

Uruguay's Esteban Batista mostly rode the bench for Atlanta, but he got a ratings boost in the FIBA Americas tournament. Uruguay's Esteban Batista mostly rode the bench for Atlanta, but he got a ratings boost in the FIBA Americas tournament. (LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS)

Big man Esteban Batista and swingman Dahntay Jones played well enough over the past few days to earn themselves an all-expenses-paid (working) vacation to Rome and London. There, and back in the United States next month, they will have the chance to make the 2007-08 Celtics.

But first things first.

The Celtics signed Batista and Jones late yesterday, "solidifying and finalizing our roster," in the words of hoops boss Danny Ainge. The roster - and flight manifest for Europe - now stands at 17. The 17 lucky fellows will be smiling and saying all the right things at Media Day tomorrow and then depart for Italy Saturday.

Given Batista's dimensions (6 feet 10 inches, 268 pounds) and the Celtics' need for size, he might have a chance to crack the final 15 (assuming they keep 15). Neither his deal nor Jones's is guaranteed, and the total payout for both is around $1.6 million. Said Batista's agent, Marc Cornstein, by e-mail, "We're happy with the opportunity he's getting."

Batista, who logged a lot of pine time in Atlanta the last two seasons (70 games, 576 minutes total), earned a shot at a third year and a second NBA team with a stellar performance at the FIBA Americas Championship, where, as Uruguay's top player, he basically went 1 on 5 many nights. He still averaged 20.8 points and a tournament-best 12.4 rebounds per game. In 24 minutes against the United States, he had 20 points and five rebounds.

"I really liked what I saw of him this summer and in the past few days," Ainge said of Batista, who turned 24 Sept. 2. "He's a strong, physical player who has some upside."

Jones has played four years in the NBA, all with Memphis. He technically was a Celtics first-round pick in 2003, part of the prearranged draft-day deal in which Boston selected Jones and Troy Bell for Memphis and the Grizzlies picked Marcus Banks and Kendrick Perkins for Boston. Jones had his most productive season in 2006-07, averaging 7.5 points and 2 rebounds in 21.4 minutes per game.

"We've watched him throughout his career," Ainge said. "He's a good athlete, perimeter defender, and has had some good coaching over the years, from Hubie [Brown] to Mike Fratello to [Mike Krzyzewski]."

Coach Doc Rivers said during the Celtics' annual media luncheon yesterday that the team could have an aggressive, fast-paced offense this season. He won't, however, decide what type of tempo fits the team best until he gets familiar with how newcomers Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett fit in with Paul Pierce during exhibition games.

"I know what we want to run and how we are going to do that," said Rivers. "That's not difficult. But the whole key for us is pace and what is the correct pace of play for us.

"I'm going to base my decision on how the big three play. If two of the three aren't sprinters, you can be a fast-paced team but you can't be an uptempo team. There is a difference. I think we can be a fast-paced team. I just don't see us being an uptempo, Phoenix Suns team. I know we're not going to do that."

Rivers said the Celtics would push the ball, but there wouldn't be quick shots like the Suns, and he has no problems going into a half-court offense. He has told players outside of Pierce, Allen, and Garnett during pickup games that if they turn the ball over in hopes of being uptempo, they are taking opportunities away from the aforementioned perennial All-Stars.

Rivers said to expect Pierce, Allen, and Garnett to be on the court together a lot during the preseason so they can get comfortable with one another. Rivers is intrigued about determining what players play best with the three stars. The Celtics begin training camp Sunday in Rome and play their first exhibition there Oct. 6 against Toronto.

"Whenever they play, a lot of times they are going to be together," Rivers said. "It's not only for them. The rest of the guys have to get used to playing with them, too. That's just as important."

Rivers will also experiment with lineups, including one with Garnett, normally a power forward, at center, and one with Pierce or newcomer James Posey at power forward. Rivers also plans on experimenting with a three-guard lineup of Ray Allen, Pierce, and Tony Allen, or Ray Allen, Tony Allen, and newcomer Eddie House.

"We have a lot of flexibility," Rivers said.

Celtics president Rich Gotham said season ticket sales are up 40 percent. The Celtics already have sold more tickets for this season than they had sold two months into last season, have sold close to 80 percent of their season tickets, and no game has more than 1,000 seats left. And all those games are in March and April.

Peter May of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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