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MIAMI -- LeBron James practiced for the first time Wednesday while wearing a mask designed to protect his broken nose and expects to return for the Heat's game Thursday against the New York Knicks.
James went through the Heat's full workout, including the contact portions of scrimmages, after participating in only noncontact drills in Tuesday's practice. Thursday will be the first game for James since he suffered the broken nose in a Feb. 20 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, when he was struck in the face on a drive to the basket by Serge Ibaka.
The Heat officially are listing James as a game-time call.
James said he's still trying to get adjusted to the mask but doesn't expect it to be too much of a distraction once he gets into the flow of a game.
"It's still uncomfortable, but I still have to wear it," he said. "It gets hot under there, and it fogs up. But I've worn one before. I've been hit before, but it lessens the impact ... it definitely lessens the pain."
James had to wear a mask during his second season in the league after fracturing his cheekbone. Earlier this week, James said he still has the clear, fiberglass mask he wore for several games nearly a decade ago but that he's had a new one made. He didn't have the new one with him during the portion of Wednesday's practice open to the media, however.
James joked that he has been in contact with Marvel Comics, DC Comics and others to "come up with greatest mask of all time" to make his experience different from other players who have worn the devices in the past. Instead, he plans to keep things simple.
"It is frustrating, but I wore it throughout practice, throughout contact drills and throughout shooting drills, just to get some rhythm with it," he said. "And I'll get some more rhythm with it [Thursday]. During timeouts, in the past, I've just dried it off and wiped it down. Then I'll just go on from there."
After sitting out Sunday's win over the Chicago Bulls, James says he's ready to get back to work. He looks to finish off arguably his most productive month of the season against the Knicks. James has shot 61.3 percent and averaged 37 points, 9.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 3.3 steals his past four games. The Heat have won five in a row and eight of their past nine.