IT WAS AN open practice - and a social experiment.

On a night when the Eagles put on a show at Lincoln Financial Field against the New York Jets, the Sixers put on one of their own for anyone who wanted to watch.

Free tickets, t-shirts and mini basketballs notwithstanding, roughly 2,500 supporters turned out last night to watch the Sixers hold an open practice capped by a Blue-White scrimmage inside the home of Philadelphia basketball - the Palestra.

For the Sixers, it was a long day, considering their nearly 3-hour morning session at the Palestra.

In front of a patient mix of families - many with young children - the 18-man preseason roster ran offensive sets, strength and agility drills and a rebounding session, all with Sixers assistant coach Brian James narrating the events via open microphone.

Sixers head coach Doug Collins deferred most of his MC duties to James, but he did show his appreciation.

"We appreciate all of you for coming out, and it's great to be back," Collins said. "We are all committed to being the best possible team we can be and I think we have the true epitome of a team here. We have leaders on this team and guys all know their roles. We know what it takes to be a success now and we are on the right track."

It was an intimate night for those that made it out to get a closer look at a team with a wealth of interesting storylines. Second-year guard Evan Turner got to display his improved shooting touch, courtesy of those intense offseason workouts with Philadelphia University coach Herb Magee. Thaddeus Young got to prove to fans that he truly is worth his new 5-year, $42 million contract.

And guard Lou Williams continued to show no ill-effects from last year's season-ending hamstring injury. Williams, coming off his game-high 19-point performance in the Sixers' 103-78 preseason win Friday against Washington, received an ovation from the crowd, and answered with another razzle-dazzle display, pouring in 12 for the White squad.

Even though, on this night, there was no reason to keep score.

"It's a great night for the fans," Williams said. "It was a chance for us to show them how hard we've been working and that we are ready for the season. It's not as important for me to score a ton of points as it is for them to see that I am ready to play basketball this season."

So what did the fans get to see?

"What we base our success on is where we were last year at this time," James said. "And we are way ahead of where we were last year at this time. It took us about seven games into preseason and 16 into the regular season [last year] before we figured out what offense to run . . . but we have a lot more at this gate than we did last year at this time."

The horde braving the cold last night to check out this new and improved Sixers certainly hope so, as the desire to see high-caliber NBA games in this region is palpable.

Just ask Jose Perez, of Millville, N.J.

"This is my favorite team, and they look rejuvenated; man, it's awesome," Perez said. "We had Eagles tickets lined up but we never got them and you know what man, I love the Birds but the Sixers are my squad. Basketball is my sport and all I want to see is these cats do well."

Words that seemingly made this experiment a slam dunk.