- Michael Wallace, ESPN Staff Writer
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LeBron James answered dozens of questions about his broken nose after participating in his first practice Tuesday since sustaining the injury a week ago.
But one question James wanted little part of was whether he felt his injury potentially would be targeted by defenders when he returns to action, which could come Thursday against the Knicks.
James participated in the non-contact portions of Tuesday’s practice and plans to go through a normal workout with the team Wednesday before his status for Thursday’s game is determined. James, who sat out Sunday’s win against Chicago after sustaining the injury in last Thursday’s game against Oklahoma City, said he will be required to wear a protective mask in games for the next few weeks.
“That’s not my question, is it?” James responded when asked if he’s worried about taking another hit to the face. “My game is not going to change. Defenses are going to try to cover me the best way they can. I won’t change my game because of the mask. I probably will have to be a little tentative when I first go out there, but I think I’ll get used to it.”
Heat teammates don’t expect James to be any less aggressive when he returns to the court. The injury happened on a play when James drove to the basket midway through the fourth quarter against the Thunder and was struck in the face as Serge Ibaka was attempting to defend the basket. James wore a mask for several games early during his career in Cleveland to protect a broken cheekbone.
“He’s played with a mask before,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said of James. “It’s not going to be easy. He knows kind of what to do and how to do it. He was effective the first time around, so I don’t think it’ll be too big of a deal for him. It’s going to be uncomfortable, but we just have to keep playing basketball.”
Wade then reflected on facing the Lakers two years ago a couple of weeks after he broke Kobe Bryant’s nose with a hit during the 2012 All-Star Game in Orlando. Wearing a protective mask, Bryant scored 33 points and led the Lakers to a 10-point victory against the Heat in Los Angeles.
“I faced Kobe after I accidentally hit him in the nose, and he went off on us,” Wade said. “So that mask didn’t hurt him at all in that game. When the game starts, you just play the game. [When] a guy comes in with the face thing on, you’re never [like], ‘I need to hit him in the facemask.’”
Heat center Chris Bosh suggested that targeting James could lead to unfortunate consequences.
“I don’t think so because it’s above the head,” Bosh said. “I believe in like karma situations. And if you target somebody, the same thing will happen to you, [maybe] worse. That’s why I don’t target people.”
Chris "Birdman" Andersen admits he doesn’t necessarily have the green light from coach Erik Spoelstra. But when a player shoots 74.4 percent in January and is at a 68.6-percent clip in February, he tends to get a bit more leeway when pulling up for a shot.
Even beyond the 3-point line. Andersen has been working on his stroke from beyond the arc this season and hasn’t been shy about taking some shots from long distance in recent games. He nailed a 3-pointer from the corner late in a win against the Mavericks Feb. 18, which drew the ire of Dallas owner Mark Cuban because the shot came in the final stages of a lopsided game.
Andersen then took two more 3-pointers in Sunday’s win against the Bulls -- and missed both.
“I’m shooting 3-pointers now, so that shows you I’m feeling comfortable as far as contributing to the game and how we like to play,” Andersen said. “I’ve always had that in my game, man. It’s just I haven’t been in a situation where I’ve been able to utilize it. I find myself in that situation very seldom.”
Andersen was partly joking about his impact and potential from long distance. But he’s putting together one of his most productive months of his two seasons with the Heat as he’s seen more playing time alongside Bosh when the Heat shift to a big lineup. After being slowed earlier in the season with two different leg injuries, Andersen has regained his footing and is hitting his stride.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve got the green light to shoot it,” Andersen said. “But it’s like everybody else on the team. We all know we can shoot it. We all know we can score. And if you have an open shot, you should take it. I do a lot more that’s not even on the stat sheet; altering shots, defensive presence in the paint. That’s the stuff I’m more known for.”
James (broken nose) is probable Thursday against the Knicks. New York has been without guard Iman Shumpert (knee) and recently waived guard Beno Udrih and forward Metta World Peace.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Heat on Tuesday signed D-League All-Star DeAndre Liggins to a 10-day contract. Liggins practiced with the team Tuesday and will be available Thursday. Liggins, a former second-round pick of the Orlando Magic, also spent time with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was recently with the D-League’s Sioux Falls Skyforce and averaged 14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 35 games.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“He’s still a good-looking guy, man. You know, he’s still married. So, I don’t think his wife is going anywhere.” – Chris Bosh, on LeBron James dealing with a broken nose and having to wear a mask when he returns to game action.