INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- As the Indiana Pacers revamped their roster during the offseason, there was never a doubt that longtime center Jeff Foster would return.
"Every team in the league wants him," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said following Tuesday's training camp practice. "I'm sure (team president) Larry (Bird) gets calls from many teams about Jeff, but that's not happening. He's too important of a player for us."
Although Foster's statistics aren't mind-blowing, he contributes in a variety of ways. The 6-11 big man has averaged five points and seven rebounds during his nine-year NBA career.
The Pacers host New Orleans in their preseason opener Wednesday night at the Pepsi Coliseum in Indianapolis.
"Jeff is one of those guys that leads by example," Pacers swingman Danny Granger said. "He's going to dive on the floor for the ball, he's going to outfight you for the ball. It's always great to have a teammate like that. Every team needs one."
Granger compared Foster's tireless work ethic, rebounding skills and defensive presence to former NBA player Dennis Rodman, who won five NBA championships during his career.
Foster "pursues the basketball like I've never seen," Granger said.
After being drafted by Golden State with the 21st overall pick in 1999, the former Texas State University star was immediately traded to Indiana.
Ten years later, he's one of only six players in franchise history to don a Pacers uniform for at least nine seasons. Austin Croshere, Dale Davis, Vern Fleming, Reggie Miller and Rik Smits are the others.
"It really means a lot to me," Foster said. "I'm proud to be a very loyal person and follow through on everything I do."
With nine new players in training camp, and the Pacers trying to change their tarnished image after a number of on- and off-court incidents in recent years, Foster's reputation as one of the league's "good guys" is something the team wants to promote.
"Jeff Foster is a high-character player. As a man, forget about coaching, he's a high-character man," O'Brien said.
"He's a person of humility and loyalty. He's committed to his teammates, he's a heck of a leader and he's a role model. These are all things we want this franchise to stand for, and he's one of the guys that epitomizes the character of this organization."
Foster's main focus is helping the Pacers reach the playoffs after missing out the past two years. He's expected to compete for the team's starting center position with Rasho Nesterovic and rookie Roy Hibbert.
"I would be sorely disappointed if we can't get this thing back in the playoffs and fill this fieldhouse back up before I end up leaving," Foster said. "Obviously, that's our goal."