'NOW WE can start getting back to the mission."

Those were the words yesterday from 76ers second-year swingman Evan Turner after he, Lou Williams and some friends went through a workout at the team's practice facility at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Turner was referring to members of the team trickling into town, getting ready for training camp, which is scheduled to begin Friday at Saint Joseph's. Forward Craig Brackins stopped and looked in on the workout, fresh off a 16-hour, overnight drive with a friend from Iowa. Elton Brand also stopped by, looking fit and trim and eager to get this delayed NBA season started.

The owners and players both remain on schedule to ratify the tentative labor agreement Thursday.

"Everybody misses the team stuff, the camaraderie," said Turner, who returned to town last Thursday night. "That's what you live for, why you play sports. We're happy to be around each other and get ready for a really strong season."

And they'll do that by getting in some workouts once everyone arrives. That could be as early as tomorrow, with a couple of exceptions. Doug Collins and his coaching staff are not permitted to supervise on-court workouts until training camp begins Friday.

Andre Iguodala drove in from Chicago on Sunday and is expected at PCOM today. Guard Jodie Meeks flew in yesterday from Atlanta and point guard Jrue Holiday and forward Marreese Speights were expected in today from the West Coast. Restricted free agents Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes might not get back until/if a deal is done for them.

"It's been tough not being around my teammates, around the coaching staff or playing games, which I love to do," Brand said. "I've spoken with the guys, making sure when they're going to come in. Right now [the workouts] are just pickup games, having some fun out there, throw the ball in and get up and down a little bit. It's more cardio. No coaches can watch, we have to sign waivers before we work out, so it's very restricted. But we can really get after it a little bit before we get too structured."

And it's probably a good bet that Brand will be getting after it this season in a Sixers uniform. Though many have speculated the Sixers could use their "amnesty clause" on Brand, paying out his contract ($17 million this year, $18 million next) and having all that money cleared from the cap space, Brand expects to be a Sixer.

"My agent [Steve Falk] has talked with the team and they've let it be known they want me here," Brand said.

Brand is one of Collins' favorite, and best, players. He led the team in scoring and rebounding in both the regular season and the playoffs.

For the next couple of days, the gathered can forget for a bit about basketball revenue income and collective bargaining agreements and just do what they've been aching to do for quite some time - play ball with their teammates.

Brackins, who played in just three games last season, stayed fit by playing in Israel during the lockout, a move he said should pay big dividends this season.

"I was playing games, so I had that mentality," he said. "It's a different game over there. I learned a lot. Hopefully I can bring the toughness of that league, the way they play, the physicality, over here.

"My expectations are to try and get on the floor this year. Last year I worked hard, got myself in shape, put myself in a good situations as far as showing work ethic and not giving up. The second year now is to try and get on the court any way that I can."

Six shots

A report by CBS Sports' Ken Berger said the Denver Nuggets talked to Thaddeus Young yesterday and that they had a "good conversation." The Sixers would have 3 days to match any offer Young receives. They have said they would match any "reasonable offer." Young told the Daily News last week that returning to the Sixers was his "first choice." Indications early last season were that Young would be seeking $11 million per year; the Sixers are more likely targeting around $8 million per year . . .

The league will release the 66-game schedule tonight. The Sixers are expected to open with a series of road games, as the Wells Fargo Center will be hosting Disney On Ice through the holidays.

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