James cleared after more tests

Cavs star practices by going to his left

Structurally sound
Associated Press / April 30, 2010

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — LeBron James shot lefthanded layups and short jumpers at practice yesterday, but the Cavaliers superstar is not expected to miss any of Cleveland’s playoff games because of his strained right elbow and bone bruise.

James was re-examined Wednesday night by team doctors, who took more X-rays and an MRI that revealed the strain and a bruised bone near the elbow. James was not wearing a padded sleeve over the elbow at practice yesterday, but acknowledged it was more of a film session and walkthrough rather than a physical practice. He did sit out one portion of contact drills.

“The best thing about it is there’s no structural damage,’’ James said. “The docs have given me clearance that I can’t hurt it worse and I can go out and play. Maybe it’s a strain in the muscle or the tendon.’’

James’s achy elbow has been the focus since Tuesday’s Game 5 victory over Chicago, when he shot a free throw lefthanded in the final seconds. He made the first foul shot with no sign of trouble to give Cleveland a 4-point lead with 7.8 seconds remaining. But he said the shot made his arm go numb — a recurring problem the last few weeks — and instead of burning one of Cleveland’s two remaining timeouts, he missed badly after shooting with his left hand.

He walked around the practice court with his arm tucked close to his body, much like it was in the final seconds of Tuesday’s game. Cleveland hid the injury for weeks and no one would have known the severity of the elbow had it not been for the awkward free throw.

James wouldn’t say whether he regrets the shot attempt — and the attention it has created.

“I’ll be ready for Game 1,’’ he said, “and I’ll be a productive player.’’

Cleveland opens its best-of-seven playoff series against Boston tomorrow.

The noise inside the arena Tuesday made it difficult for James to communicate with head coach Mike Brown, who initially was confused why James shot the ball lefthanded. Although the arm could go numb again in the series against Boston, Brown said he will not address with his star how James handled the final few seconds of Tuesday’s game.

“It happened. We move onto the next play,’’ Brown said. “I can get into a whole bunch of hypotheticals. If we come across a situation, we’ll deal with it, make the best of it and move on.’’

James will have daily treatments and another MRI next week. The NBA’s MVP has been wearing a protective sleeve on his right arm, but it will not require surgery to repair.

“You don’t want LeBron . . . hurt at this point in the season,’’ Brown said. “You don’t have much time for recovery. We’re concerned about anybody being hurt at this time of year. Hopefully everybody can stay healthy throughout the rest of this run.’’

The elbow affected James’s ability to shoot jumpers on Tuesday, when the Cavaliers eliminated Chicago. He took just three shots in the first half and attempted two 3-pointers in the game.

“If I am limited during the game, then I’ll be smart about it,’’ James said. “That’s what I was able to do in Game 5. I was very limited in shooting long-range shots, so I started going to the hole in the fourth quarter.

“I’ll be ready.’’

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