For those of you who think NBA teams piece together and establish their identity through the summer, training camp and the preseason . . .

Not necessarily.

Consider the 76ers, 2-2 as they enter tonight's game against the 0-5 New Jersey Nets, the league's only winless team:

"Right now, we're just in between, really trying to find our identity," veteran guard Willie Green said after practice yesterday at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. "But guys are coming to practice working hard, and we're running our offense, but it's still taking a little bit of time.

"It's one of those things where we're going to have to turn our practice play over into our game play."

Green said they have been comfortable working against one another. It's those pesky opponents who somehow get in the way.

"If something's taken away [in practice], we know how to go to other options," Green said. "But it's in the games where we get a little stumble, a little fumble. Guys try and get in their positions, but for the most part we've got to play basketball and not necessarily worry about who's in what position."

They're learning the read-and-react, pass-and-cut Princeton offense as fast as they can; a cynic might suggest temporarily terming it the Trenton offense, because they haven't quite reached Princeton.

"It's not a hard offense to learn," Green said. "The difficult part is when teams take [options] away from us."

That, Green said, is when players start thinking, "Where's the next pass supposed to go? Who's supposed to flash? Where's the backdoor pass?"

"Those are the things that have to come more naturally to this team," Green said.

But if those are priorities, coach Eddie Jordan has his own set of more important ones. And the Sixers' inability to defend the three-point shot isn't particularly one of them, even though opponents have hit 51 treys to the Sixers' 17. That's a scoring disparity of 153-51, including Boston's 42-3 advantage Tuesday night.

"I want to get better defense everywhere - pressure defense, zone defense," Jordan said. "I'm not going to really concentrate on three-point shooting defense when there's other - in my mind - priorities."

Jordan's list: Protect the rim, protect the paint, get through screens, guard the ball, rebounding.

"If everyone else [hurts the Sixers with threes] for the next 10 games, we'll do something else," he said.

One other priority: The substitution rotation.

Jordan has told the players he has a starting five - Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala, Samuel Dalembert, Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young - with Marreese Speights as most likely the first "big" off the bench, and Jason Kapono as the likely first midsize guy off the bench. The eighth man, the first "small" off the bench, has yet to be determined.

"It's someone I need to find who's going to make some headway, someone who's going to tell me he's the eighth guy."

The candidates: Green, Royal Ivey, Rodney Carney and rookie Jrue Holiday.

"If you distinguish yourself as the guy, then that's going to be the guy," the coach said. "It'll be based on execution, defense, running the break correctly, making shots and making correct decisions."

Six shots

The Nets' Chris Douglas-Roberts, who was displaying flulike symptoms, was not on the team bus that left for Philadelphia yesterday afternoon. With Yi Jianlian out with a sprained right knee and Devin Harris out probably 2 more weeks with a groin strain, the Nets expected to have nine men in uniform tonight . . . Author Jennifer Grocki will be signing copies of her Sixers children's book, "From A To Zone D" at halftime tonight in the Sixers' charity kiosk behind Section 103. The book teaches the letters of the alphabet through basketball terms.

For more Sixers coverage, read

the Daily News' Sixers blog, Sixerville, at