New 76ers forward Andres Nocioni won't need long to endear himself to Philadelphia fans.

He comes from the school of thought that if you have an injury, throw a little dirt on it and get back to playing.

He basically tried to do just that when he severely sprained his left ankle during the summer while training with Argentina in preparation for the FIBA World Championships. He tried to keep playing on it, but it didn't work out. He has been sidelined since, though the ankle gradually has gotten stronger. Yesterday, at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, he participated in his first full workout with his new team.

"The problem is I tried to push myself before the world championships," he said yesterday as the Sixers prepared for today's third preseason game, against the New Jersey Nets in Newark. "I think I need to rest it really well the first month that it was hurt. So I took care of it a little bit more, and now I feel fine, I feel normal right now. I feel like I can play, but sometimes my leg is not strong enough, but that's normal and I'm going to be all right at the start of the season, for sure."

His return will be a welcomed sight. Nocioni possesses a couple of assets this team sorely needs. He can drain outside shots with frequency, and he is one of the NBA's toughest players.

When exactly he will be back on the court for a game is still uncertain. Nocioni said he felt good and might be ready for today's game, then later said he would play the final three preseason games.

During his time on the sideline, Nocioni has been taking in what coach Doug Collins is trying to implement and where the team needs to improve. He is ready to do whatever is asked to hasten that improvement.

"My role is going to be the same as it's been on every team I've been on - to bring energy to the game," he said. "I think that is my game, that is what I try to do, play hard 'D' and try to leave everything on the court.

"My role on the team is the role that my coach is going to give me. I can play a small forward, a power forward. Right now, I think we need to play together a little bit more and try to play 'D.' It's really tough right now, because everybody is thinking about last year, and we need to forget it. It's a new season, and we'll start over again. We need to play hard. That's it.

"I think we're going to be all right. I think we'll find a way. I think right now we're feeling a little pressure [to do the right things]. I think we're going to feel much better in a few days."

Six Shots

Before yesterday's practice, the Sixers waived guard James Florence, who had been hampered by a sore hamstring. The roster now stands at 16 . . . Spencer Hawes sat out with a strained lower back and will not play today. Tony Battie (knee) also sat out.

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