The 76ers' Opening Night starting small forward will be . . .

Thaddeus Young.

Maurice Cheeks waited until yesterday to say that publicly, not because Young hadn't earned the job, but because the coach wanted to see him on the practice floor, to be certain the back strain he suffered Friday was no longer an issue.

Cheeks' contingency plan tonight would have been to use Kareem Rush in Young's spot. He gave Rush some extra time with the other starters during the workouts at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

"I feel great, actually," said Young, who will continue to wear a padded vest in practice and games. "No worries, no injuries. I'm pretty good."

He clearly is happy to start against the Toronto Raptors, but said it had not been an issue with him.

"It's not about if I'm starting or if I'm not starting," he said. "I just want to go out there and help my team win games."

Active/inactive list

The Opening Night rosters released by the NBA listed the injured Jason Smith and rookie Marreese Speights as the two Sixers who would not be in uniform.

The caveat: Teams have until an hour before the game starts to declare their inactive players.

Tonight's additional caveat: Royal Ivey will begin serving the remaining two games of a three-game suspension incurred after an incident with the Chicago Bulls' Aaron Gray late last season, when Ivey was a member of the Milwaukee Bucks. By rule, Ivey must be included on the active roster and cannot be in the arena for the two games, but is permitted to practice. The Sixers, then, will have only 11 men available, one below the league limit.

Early start

Because, weather permitting, Game 5 of the World Series between the Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays will resume tonight in Citizens Bank Park, the Sixers and Raptors will tip off an hour earlier than the usual 7 p.m.

Once the game ends, there will be the equivalent of a postgame block party in the Wachovia Center, with the baseball game shown on screens in the AT&T Pavilion.

Talking taxes

Jermaine O'Neal, who joined the Raptors this season with 2 years and $44 million remaining on his contract, told the

Toronto Sun

he believes in taxing the rich to a greater degree.

"I look at my family and not everyone is fortunate enough to enjoy the lifestyle I have," he said. "They're getting hit, and I'm all for taxing the wealthy even more. There has to be more support for the middle class and below. They, too, can receive a piece of the pie. I don't believe in one particular segment of society enjoying all the fruits. You have to ensure that all people are enjoying life. Ultimately, it affects kids, who one day will be in positions to run our country."

The oldest Raptor

Starting forward Anthony Parker, 33, got his NBA start playing 37 games for the Sixers in 1997-98. Parker left the league after '99-00, spending a season with Virtus Roma in Italy and five with Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he won five Israeli Premier League championships. He's in his third season with the Raptors. *