LeBron James’ teammates are confident that the Miami Heat star will push through a sprained left ankle to play in Wednesday’s marquee showdown against the Indiana Pacers.
But James insists he’ll need “around-the-clock” treatment to give himself a chance to avoid missing his first game of the season. James is the only Heat player to start every game this season and is one of two -- point guard Norris Cole being the other -- to play in all 24 Heat games.
Historically, no injury has knocked James out of action more over his 11-year career than ankle sprains. James has missed 25 regular-season games to injury during his career, with 10 of those absences caused by sprained ankles, according to the Miami Heat’s official media guide.
The left ankle has been the source of the problem in six of those 10 instances. So when James suggests he has developed a routine for recovery, he is speaking from plenty of experience. James used his social media account to post a photo of himself after Tuesday’s practice with his feet elevated in an effort to help reduce the swelling amid extensive treatment sessions.
James was still trying to determine the severity of his latest ankle sprain, which he sustained in Monday’s 117-94 victory against the Utah Jazz. James finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in 34 minutes. He sprained the ankle late in the third quarter but came back to play late in the fourth to limit the immediate swelling.
“We’ve been through this, so we know how to attack it,” James said after sitting out Tuesday’s practice at AmericanAirlines Arena. “I’ve had the extreme to the not so extreme.”
No other injury has had as much of an effect on James’ availability, although he has a history of playing through bumps and bruises to stay on the court. His remarkable stretch of durability has seen him miss 35 regular-season games in his career, with 10 of them listed as a healthy scratch.
James’ history includes five games missed with an injured hamstring, five with a sprained index finger, two with a sore toe, one with back spasms, one for knee tendinitis and one for personal reasons.
Heat center Chris Bosh said James’ track record of durability speaks for itself and that another statement will be made with his availability against the Pacers.
“He’s going to play,” Bosh said. “He’s just fooling everybody. He’ll be fine. He just loves basketball. We’ve been in this situation before. He’s turned his ankle before. We could play whoever, and he’s going to play the next game.”
Already the NBA’s career leader in 3-pointers made, Heat guard Ray Allen joined an elite group recently when he surpassed 24,000 points. Allen is one of six active players to have crossed that scoring threshold, a list that includes Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Tim Duncan.
That group has a combined 14 NBA championship rings.
Allen said Tuesday that the most impressive part about their respective careers has been their longevity and durability in sustaining an elite level of play through at least two decades.
“It’s just about availability,” Allen said. “You look at everyone mentioned; you’re talking about guys that have all played 15-plus years in the NBA. Despite all of those guys having stellar careers, guys took care of themselves, always present and worked hard. That is always a lesson.”
At age 38 and in his 18th season, Allen is in the final year of his contract with the Heat and will become a free agent at the end of the season. He is averaging 10 points per game off the bench after reporting to training camp this season at the same weight he was during his final season in college at Connecticut.
Allen said he has yet to decide how much longer he’ll try to play but added he would base his decision, in part, on whether James elects to remain in Miami. James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all have clauses where they can opt out of the final two seasons on their contracts and become free agents.
There’s a secret to Allen’s long-term stability and success.
“It’s just a testimony to guys taking care of themselves and taking care of their minds and being able to play in two different decades of basketball,” said Allen, the fifth overall pick in the 1996 draft. “Well, for me now, it’s three [decades].”
Michael Beasley (hamstring), Greg Oden (knee), LeBron James (ankle) and Dwyane Wade (knee) either sat out or were limited in Tuesday’s light practice session. Erik Spoelstra said all players would be re-evaluated after Wednesday’s shootaround. Beasley and Oden are expected to miss Wednesday’s game against Indiana, James will be a game-time decision, and Wade is expected to play.
DID YOU KNOW
Heat president Pat Riley was among a group of team staffers who filled care packages in the arena Tuesday to send to soldiers overseas. The Heat partnered with America’s Moms for Soldiers in the effort, in which the Heat stuffed boxes with sanitary items, snacks and team gear.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It’s a basketball game versus two good teams. It’s a lot of that going on in the NBA. It’s not a big deal. It’s not our championship, I’ll tell you that. It’s a competition there. [But] it’s not a rivalry yet.”
– Heat guard Dwyane Wade, on the Heat and Pacers rivalry -- or lack thereof