THE STARTING lineup is set.

For now.

The substitution rotation is, well, a work in progress.

The team is 3-4, the coach is new, and a lot of the players are very young - so in a nutshell, pretty much nothing is rock solid as far as the 76ers are concerned.

Not yet.

That doesn't mean that coach Eddie Jordan's team is in a state of confusion. Nor does it mean that anything else is a given. It just means, well, everyone will have to wait and see.

Jordan's substitutions throughout the young season have been about as predictable as the play of the local professional football team. It's partly due to the ineffectiveness of some starters, partly to the effectiveness of some subs. As much as Jordan might want things to be status quo, it just hasn't been figured out yet.

"I look at how you play in the game, it's not all about stats," said Jordan after yesterday's practice at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. "Anybody can get stats and lose. There's a lot of good stat players on losing teams that when you put them on winning teams, they're not good players. Not to say that I'm talking about our guys, but I'm looking at how you play the game, how you run the floor, how you defend. Is the fabric of our defense solid with you in the game? Is the continuity of our offense solid when you're in the game? That's what I look at."

He has experimented more than a mad scientist. And the frustration has started to mount a little bit.

Elton Brand sat the fourth quarter for two of the last three games and might have sat out the whole final quarter of the Pistons game this past Sunday if Marreese Speights didn't suffer a knee contusion and have to come out.

So what is set, particularly in the starting lineup?

"It means something," Jordan said about being in a starter. "We look at Elton and Samuel [Dalembert] as our starting four and five, in a sense. We give them the chance to keep those minutes. They won that in training camp.

"We've looked at mock lineups in training camp. We've had some good starts in some of our games. When you deal with a starting lineup, that could be a sensitive issue among players. I don't want to touch a nerve right there right now. Are there some reasons for me to want to change the starting lineup? Yeah, because our second group has been playing very well. I like the way Marreese is playing. I like the way Jason Smith is playing; I like the way Royal [Ivey] has defended. Does that make me want to change the [starting] lineup? No, not now. We always think about it, we always talk about it. Sometimes when guys come off the bench and then they start, they're not as good as starters. It's a sensitive issue and we don't want to touch that nerve right now."

Among the starters, Brand and Dalembert have seen the most time on the bench. Most of that is due to the play of Speights. Part of it, Jordan suggests, is due to matchups.

Whatever, it is still too early for the coach to have anything set in stone. Consider Monday night's loss to the Phoenix Suns when rookie Jrue Holiday came off the bench to supply more than 15 good minutes with eight points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals. The day before, in a loss at Detroit, the UCLA product didn't take off his warmups.

What's it all mean? Probably that Jordan is still trying to figure out who plays best at what point, and what his best matchups are against certain opponents.

It is still a work in progress. Sixers fans probably don't want to hear that, but it is the painful truth.

Struggling Thad

Third-year forward Thaddeus Young has struggled thus far this season, especially after dropping 25 points against the Knicks in the third game of the season. Since then, he's shot just 16 of 48 (33 percent) from the floor. Most of those makes have come from close to the basket. He seems terribly out of rhythm shooting the ball from the perimeter.

"When shots aren't falling you try to get in closer to the basket and try to get other guys involved and try to pass it a little bit more and try to rebound a little bit more and try to create havoc on defense," Young said. "There's many other things you can do to make an impact on a game.

"It's only seven games into the season, so right now I'm just trying to get into the gym and trying to work on everything and get back to where I was last year and try to get better."

Young has been a regular among players staying after their allotted practice time, working on his outside shooting. It's not so much a shooting technique problem, but rather with his footwork, he says.

"My problem is getting my feet set and getting into the shot, getting my legs into the shot. I just got to do that to be ready when the ball comes."

Though his shooting has been a struggle, Young insists he won't let that affect other parts of his game.

"When I get down on the defensive end of the court, I just try to lock in and lock up and get a steal and get out on the break," he said. "Transition is really what we're big on. We thrive on transition. We just try to get out there, get some steals, get some rebounds and try to stop guys."

Six Shots

While playing one-on-one at the end of practice, Elton Brand sent Primoz Brezec to the locker room with a bloodied nose. Earlier in the practice, Brand sent Smith off to the sidelines with a hurt right shoulder during scrimmage time.

After grabbing a rebound, Brand was dribbling down the court and being harassed by Smith. Brand gave a well-placed elbow to Smith's shoulder, in what appeared to be a charley-horse-like injury.

Said Brand: "Jason went down courtesy of himself. Jason goes down because he plays hard. He went down because of himself. Now Primoz, I took Primoz out."