Thursday, March 29, 2012

LeBron won't miss time for dislocated finger


source: Michael Wallace | ESPN.com

MIAMI -- LeBron James confirmed Wednesday he's dealing with a dislocated finger in addition to other pains, but said he doesn't plan to skip games to rest anytime soon.

"I've still got work to do," James said after the Heat's practice in preparation for Thursday's home game against the Dallas Mavericks in a matchup of last season's NBA Finals. "I'll be ready. I hate using injuries as an excuse. If I'm in uniform, then I should be good to go. The only recovery for it, the doctors told me, was rest. And I think we all know I'm having none of that."

James injured the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand in the first half of Monday's loss against the Indiana Pacers, but finished the game and never made mention of the dislocation afterward. Addressing the injury for the first time on Wednesday, James said he quickly "popped" the finger back into place and got some treatment before resuming playing against the Pacers.

James finished with 24 points, nine rebounds and six turnovers in 41 minutes against Indiana. Citing a source, ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard first reported Tuesday that James might have dislocated the finger. The Heat did not practice Tuesday. James also has been dealing with lingering elbow and neck soreness from a couple of hard falls he took during a March 20 game against the Phoenix Suns.

The combination of injuries has come with James in the midst of his worst offensive slump since he joined the Heat last season. He has averaged 18.4 points and shot about 40 percent from the field over the past five games. For the season, James ranks third in the league in scoring at 26.7 points per game and is shooting a career-best 53.4 percent from the field.


The latest injury, James said, has impacted his ability to dribble and rebound "because you have to squeeze the ball." But he also said he'll make adjustments and play through the discomfort. The Heat's practices on Wednesday provided a significant test, with coach Erik Spoelstra pushing the team through physical drills that he compared to a training camp workout.

The Heat have performed inconsistently since the All-Star break and are coming off lopsided losses to Oklahoma City and the Pacers on consecutive nights. Miami was outscored by a combined 31 points in those games and committed 38 turnovers.

Spoelstra said the practice was designed to address "slippage" in his team's play. James made it through the workout, but wore a splint on the finger.

"You can't feel nothing because it's definitely [bandaged]," James said. "It's probably an injury I'm going to have for a while. The good thing about it is I got through [practice] without getting hit. I feel good about it. We needed it."

Spoelstra said James has been cleared by doctors and the training staff to continue playing, and that he was told none of the ailments could get any worse by playing. In essence, it's a matter of his pain tolerance.

"If he can get through a practice like this, he can get through any game," Spoelstra said. "LeBron is a tough guy. He's a warrior. I've seen him play through injuries in the last year and a half that most players wouldn't. And I'm not talking just games. He's a guy who rarely misses practices, shootarounds. A day like today, you can probably make a case he could sit out to rest. But he understands how important the work part is."

The Heat's depth at small forward is also affected by a sprained ankle that has kept James' backup, Mike Miller, out of the lineup since March 10. Spoelstra said Miller's condition is improving but that Miller has yet to participate in a contact practice.

James laughed when asked Wednesday if he might need to be protected from himself by being told he should sit out a few games to rest. He has missed only one game this season when he sat out Jan. 5 against the Atlanta Hawks with a sprained ankle.

The Heat (35-13) are 3½ games behind the Chicago Bulls for the Eastern Conference's best record. They also are in the midst of a tough stretch in the schedule, with seven of their next nine games against teams jockeying for playoff position.

Barring any additional setbacks, James said he would consider resting for a couple of games at the end of the regular season late next month once the Heat's playoff seed is secured.

"I just don't like letting my teammates down, honestly," James said. "I've had a lot of battles over my years with myself, coaches and trainers -- trying to keep me from playing. Sometimes, I know it's best for the team for me to sit. Sometimes I know, for me personally, I would like to play. So I don't have a hard time with it."