Brand Back On The Court

Elton Brand was back on the practice court today, involved in contact drills for the first time since suffering a dislocated right shoulder Dec. 17. He indicated that he has been told by the 76ers' medical staff that returning Wednesday night against Portland is pretty much out, but he's clearly getting signficantly closer.

In the portion of practice that reporters viewed from the second floor of the facility at Philadelphia College Of Osteopathic Medicine, Brand didn't seem to be favoring the shoulder. He set screens, he took shots, he dropped in a two-handed dunk on a pass from Willie Green.

"I was encouraged,'' coach Tony DiLeo said. ''I didn't see him shy away at all. He used both arms, he went up to block shots, he shot the ball. (His return) is for the doctors' opinion, the medical staff. I think it's more of a day-to-day thing. We're going to monitor it . . . We'll reevaluate after tomorrow's practice.

The Sixers, currently on a four-game winning streak, are 6-6 in the absence of Brand. They're 8-6 under DiLeo, the replacement for the fired Maurice Cheeks.