Miami, FL, United States (4E Sports) – LeBron James is expected to return when the Miami Heat take on the New York Knicks Thursday.
James returned to practice but he was off limits during the Heat’s full-contact portions of scrimmage work, so he did not wear a protective mask.
However, James will wear the mask in the next few weeks as he recovers from the broken nose that he sustained against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“Every day is better,” James said. “It’s getting better, but I haven’t been hit on it, either. It’s too soon, but I think I should be fine enough to go on Thursday. It’s only Tuesday, so we’ve got a lot of time.”
James sustained the injury midway through the fourth quarter of Thursday’s victory against Oklahoma City when he was struck in the face by Serge Ibaka while driving for a dunk. He left the game and did not return.
An X-ray confirmed the break after the Heat returned from their six-game trip Friday, and James had a corrective procedure. He did not play in the Heat’s victory over the Chicago Bulls.
Having worn a mask earlier in his career to protect a broken cheekbone, James said he’s familiar with the discomfort playing with the contraption on his face.
“It’s a difficult challenge … it feels like something, someone has a hand constantly in your face,” James said. “It’s like an added defender you don’t want.”
James has averaged 37 points, 9.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 3.3 steals and shot 61.3 percent from the field in his past four games while the Heat have also won eight of their last nine and sit 1½ games behind Indiana for the best record in the Eastern Conference.