Cavs' James: Injury Not Serious

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 24, 2007

CLEVELAND, April 23 -- When he saw LeBron James rolling around on the floor, pounding the court with his left hand while breathing into his right fist after spraining his left ankle on Sunday, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Drew Gooden immediately considered the worst.

"I kind of thought, 'Wow, if we don't have LeBron -- I see what Washington is going through right now,' " Gooden said.

But when James rose to his feet, limped to the sideline and returned after a timeout, Gooden was relieved that a first-round series that already has been affected by the absence of Washington Wizards all-stars Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler will continue to feature the would-be King. After James limped out of Quicken Loans Arena on Sunday, following the Cavaliers' 97-82 victory in Game 1 of this best-of-seven series, there was some concern about his availability for Game 2 on Wednesday.

James spent most of Monday receiving treatment before finally declaring that despite some soreness and stiffness, his ankle won't keep him out of the postseason. "If we had a game [Monday], I definitely would be able to play," said James, who dragged his foot out of the locker room. "So I'm definitely headed in the right direction."

James rolled his ankle while stepping on Wizards center Etan Thomas's foot with 8 minutes 3 seconds left in the third quarter but continued to play through the pain, finishing with 23 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists in 44 minutes. He soaked his ankle in ice after the game. As he got dressed in the locker room, James glanced up at a television and watched footage of the injury. James grimaced and rubbed his hands on his face. That replay surely won't be saved on his TiVo. "I've seen it once," he said. "I don't need to see it again."

James was worried that the ankle would swell like a balloon overnight was but said he was relieved when he woke up. The Cavaliers did not practice on Monday, so James didn't test the ankle, which team trainer Max Benton said experienced a Grade II sprain -- with Grade III being the worst. His treatment was primarily to keep the swelling down. "It was definitely a time I thought, 'Why now?' I'm finally 100 percent health-wise and now I turn my ankle. I got to go back down to 80 [percent] again," James said.

James missed three games after spraining the same ankle in his previous two seasons. This season, he missed two games with a sprained big toe, one with back spasms and another because of tendinitis in his right knee.

James said the ankle injury wasn't as serious as others he has suffered, adding that he knew he would be fine when he chased down a loose ball, sprinted down the court and converted a layup nearly five minutes after his left shoe was perpendicular to the floor. "I was able to finish the game yesterday because I was able to run on it, push off of it, but rest always helps," James said. "I just wanted to have the willpower to fight through it and not worry about it."

James averaged 35.7 points in Cleveland's first-round series against Washington last season, but the Wizards have made a concerted effort to contain him ever since. In his past four games, James has been limited to 23.5 points against the Wizards, never scoring more than the 26 he scored in the season opener on Nov. 1.

James said he wasn't worried about putting up astronomical numbers in this series. "I'm all about winning ballgames. That's all that matters to me," James said. "It's not about the Wizards just continuing to try to stop me. If they allow Larry [Hughes] to score 27 points in this series, then we'll definitely be able to have a good chance to advance."

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