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Celtics sitting pretty; baseball old-timers' games proliferate

Given their best-in-the-league record, the Boston Celtics are the last team that would seem to need another outstanding player -- but they may get one after the current season ends anyway. In fact, Boston could wind up with the top choice in this year's college draft of the National Basketball Association, to be held after the conclusion of the playoffs in June. The Celtics own Seattle's first-round pick as the result of a trade made last year, and if the SuperSonics wind up missing the playoffs, Boston would enter a seven-team lottery for the draft's No. 1 choice. At this point Seattle, which stands next to last in the Pacific Division, would qualify for the lottery.

Though the Celtics have few apparent weaknesses, they wouldn't mind picking up a ``small,'' scoring forward to complement the team's inside strength and make it feasible to give Larry Bird more rest. Among the players high on the shopping list could be Auburn's Chuck Person, Maryland's Len Bias, and Kentucky's Kenny Walker.

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Incidentally, the Celtics aren't the only team that stands to benefit from a previous trade in the coming draft. Two of their Eastern rivals, Philadelphia and Detroit, could also get into the lottery -- Philly via a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers and Detroit as the result of a compensation award from Sacramento, which signed former Piston-turned-free agent Terry Tyler. Vintage baseball circuit

Old-timers' games have become popular fixtures on many major-league baseball schedules. And starting this year games involving former stars will be played in all 26 big-league ballparks. The series has come about via an agreement with a life insurance company to sponsor and organize the three- to five-inning contests.

The idea is to follow the established old-timers' format, in which former stars for the host ball club face a mixture of old-timers from other teams in games that precede regular major-league games. If a franchise is too young to field a strong group of ``golden oldies,'' two mixed teams square off. The series centerpiece will be an Old-timers' All-Star Game, played before the regular major-league All-Star contest July 13 in Houston. Touching other bases

Tom Heinsohn, the gravel-throated analyst on CBS's pro basketball telecasts, may have the most distinctive voice in sportscasting. He sounds much like Jackie Gleason did playing the excitable Ralph Kramden in the old ``Honeymooners'' TV series.

Owner Bill Bidwell may not necessarily want to move pro football's Cardinals out of St. Louis, but the National Football League has cause for skepticism. The Cardinals have brought an antitrust suit against the league, challenging NFL rules that govern the relocation of franchises.

When the packages of gift golf balls run out, a great many weekend players reach for those inexpensive Xed-out models that are sold in pro shops. The question many ask themselves, however, is whether these balls are really a bargain. Golf Digest sheds some light on the ``X-out dilemma'' in its latest issue. The magazine concludes that most of these balls are flawed, though often only cosmetically. Because they have been on warehouse and store shelves longer than normal balls, however, they may lose their liveliness sooner.

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