Sixers' Young to return tonight

Marcus Hayes reporting ...

The sprained ankle was stiff, and the bruised bone in the foot was sore, but both were manageable.

So, explosive forward Thaddeus Young will return to the court tonight for the Sixers when they host Boston in the home finale. Young missed the last seven games with those right foot problems. The Sixers went 2-5 without his scoring and defensive quickness.

“He’s going to play tonight,” coach Tony DiLeo announced at the shootaround with a broad smile. “Short stints. Four, 5 minutes.”

That’s because Young’s 2-week absence has left him a bit out of shape. DiLeo didn’t say that Young would start – “I don’t want to announce anything,” he said – but he was clearly relieved that his most energetic player would return to a depleted lineup, worn down by the 80 games already played this season, the seven without Young in 11 days.

They have two more – tonight, then tomorrow night in Cleveland – and those games will serve as a test not only of Young’s fitness and health but also of the team’s ability to re-integrate him. They were 10-7 in the 17 games preceding his injury, a stretch during which he was scoring 20.5 points on 54.4 percent shooting.

“It’ll be nice to get Thad back into the action, let him get his timing back,” DiLeo said.

DiLeo hopes that these last two regular-season games, plus 2 or 3 days of practice, will help Young’s conditioning reach the point it was before the injury.

Young agreed that he would be best served with limited exposure at first. He also said that he knew last night that he would be OK today.

After a strenuous workout Sunday in Toronto, then 30 minutes of hard scrimmaging at yesterday’s practice, he felt encouraged and pain-free. A regimen that included electric stimulus, hot packs, hot whirlpools and ultrasound had him positively peppy at shootaround this morning.

“It feels real good,” Young said.

No matter how good it feels, DiLeo said, the Sixers cannot consider Young the cure for their recent ailments. They have lost a season-high five straight games, with the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference yet to play. Given their recent stagnant scoring and their uncommitted defense, 15 minutes from Young isn’t going to make them a team to be feared.

“We’re not expecting miracles from him,” DiLeo said. “We want to get him back, get him integrated with the team. But we need to play good basketball.”