76ers Notes

Shavlik Randolph

still has a way to go in his recovery from a dislocated and fractured left ankle, but he is happy to at least be back in the locker room to cheer on and joke with his teammates on the 76ers.

"I'm so happy to be back here and be around the guys," Randolph, the cast off his left ankle, said last night. "I was making my mom so mad just back home [in North Carolina], lying on the couch and doing nothing all day. I'm sure she's happy to see me back up here. I really missed being here."

Randolph, a second-year forward, suffered the gruesome-looking injury on Nov. 30 when he landed awkwardly trying to pull down a rebound in practice. He underwent surgery that night as doctors inserted a pin to allow the torn ligament to heal.

Randolph's ankle will be examined again on Wednesday when he hopes doctors will give him permission to stop using crutches and set a date to remove the pin. Once the pin is taken out, he figures he can return to action in four to six weeks. For now, he is estimating around mid-March.

"Once that [pin] comes out, I'll be able to go much faster in my rehab and start getting back in playing shape," he said. "Once they clear me to kind of go full speed, I'm going to do what I can to be out there as soon as possible."

Returning to action this season is important to the 6-foot-10 Randolph, who has set that as a personal goal.

"I'm not thinking I'll be able to come back and save this season or anything like that," he said. "If I could play the last 25 games of the season, that's still a huge chunk of the season. I think that would be great. It'll give me momentum going into the summer. I'm just going to be ready no matter what happens."

Randolph has been watching games from the Wachovia Center box of president and general manager Billy King instead of from the bench because "knowing my luck, someone will dive into me or something," he said.

Larry the lifer

San Antonio Spurs coach

Gregg Popovich

is a longtime close friend of

Larry Brown,

which is why he and his staff dined Saturday night with Brown and his wife during which basketball talk was off-limits.

"You can imagine that was pretty hard," Popovich said.

But Popovich, who got his start in the NBA as an assistant on Brown's staff with the Spurs in 1988, said he had no doubt Brown, named executive vice president of the Sixers earlier this month, would be back in basketball.

"He's definitely a lifer," Popovich said. "There's no doubt about that. He's a lifer big-time. Being here [in Philadelphia] has been great for him because his family loved being here and they loved coming back.

"This is a wonderful thing for him. He really respects the organization and Mr. Snider [Sixers chairman Ed Snider]. He enjoys being back and [being] part of this group, so we'll see what happens."

But Popovich wouldn't directly answer a question on whether he thinks Brown wants to return to coaching, saying: "I make no claim to be a psychologist and have answers to questions that are beyond speculation. I learned that watching CNN."

- Joe Juliano