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BIRD SAYS HE HID IRREGULAR HEARTBEAT FROM CELTICS TEAM DOCTORS

Larry Bird says he did not tell the Boston Celtics and team doctors that he felt irregular heartbeats during offseason workouts late in his NBA career.

He also has indicated he might step down as Indiana Pacers coach at the end of next season.

In today's edition of The Boston Globe, Bird said he had discussed quitting with Pacers president Donnie Walsh.

"He didn't say it flat out, but it's not like he has come in here and told us that this is it," Walsh told the newspaper.

Bird, who could not be reached for comment today, signed a three-year contract in 1997 to coach the Pacers with the expectation that he'd move into the front office after that. Walsh said the two have discussed such a move for next season and that Bird has seemed interested in doing it.

Bird's heart ailment was disclosed in an excerpt in this week's Sports Illustrated from his upcoming book, "Bird Watching: On Playing and Coaching the Game I Love."

"I always knew there was something wrong with my heart," Bird wrote.

The heart "episodes," as he called them, apparently didn't occur during the regular season.

He said he would feel sudden exhaustion and his heart would start "jumping around."

After retiring in 1992 and joining the Celtics' front office, Bird felt the "episodes" more often. He finally told team physician Arnie Scheller and was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.

The disease is not life threatening and not as serious as ventricular fibrillation, which doctors believed caused the death of former Celtics teammate Reggie Lewis.

Raptors re-sign Oakley

TORONTO -- Veteran power forward Charles Oakley signed a three-year contract with the Toronto Raptors, who had more salary cap room than any other team that sought him.

Financial terms of the contract weren't disclosed, though one of Oakley's agents last week said the player had agreed to a three-year, $18 million pact.

Oakley, 35, had narrowed his choices to Toronto and the Los Angeles Lakers, who could offer him no more than $2 million a year because of cap restraints.

Oakley averaged 7.0 points and 7.5 rebounds as the Raptors contended for their first playoff berth in the NBA.

Around the league

Center Olden Polynice passed a physical exam, validating his contract with the Utah Jazz. The 12-year NBA veteran signed a two-year deal Friday, contingent that he pass the exam. Polynice, 34, played in 48 games last season with Seattle, averaging 7.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.

Veteran center Felton Spencer signed a one-year contract with the San Antonio Spurs, effectively replacing departing backup center Will Perdue. Spencer, a 7-footer selected in the 1990 draft by the Timberwolves with the sixth overall pick, played last season with Golden State.

Perdue was a backup for San Antonio center David Robinson for four years before signing with the Chicago Bulls last week.

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