- Michael Wallace, ESPN Staff Writer
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It wasn't initially clear whether James aggravated the slight knee injury during the Heat's 119-109 overtime victory against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. But James has dealt with soreness in both knees for much of the season.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra didn't reveal James' latest injury during his session with reporters immediately after Thursday's practice at AmericanAirlines Arena. But during the final stages of practice that were open to the media, James was seen riding a stationary bike.
James then told reporters he had taken it easy during practice because he was being treated for a knee bruise. Asked if he would play Friday, James said, "I hope so."
The minutes have been piling up for James in recent weeks as he's tried to lead the Heat out of some recent struggles. He played 42 minutes Wednesday against Dallas and went 48 minutes without a break in the second half during Monday's overtime road win against the Orlando Magic.
James, named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for November and December, has played at least 40 minutes in eight of the Heat's past 15 games, including a few when he didn't take a break the entire second half.
Spoelstra insists James' heavy minutes aren't too much of a concern right now and points to the fact that the 38.4 he's averaging this season are third-fewest of his career.
The Heat have also given James and other veterans practice time off and have canceled some workouts altogether. But teammate Dwyane Wade, who has been working his way back from offseason knee surgery, said there are times when he has to force James to stay off his feet when he can.
James is tied with Joe Johnson for sixth in the league in minutes played this season behind Luol Deng, Kevin Durant, Joakim Noah, Kobe Bryant and Jrue Holiday. During the Heat's 104-85 loss in Milwaukee on Saturday, James uncharacteristically asked out of the game in the third quarter because he was fatigued.
"We know that he's been playing constantly for a while, and he doesn't miss many games," Wade said. "But you still have to be prepared just in case [he can't] go, because he does take a beating every night, and he might need [a rest]. I tell him some practice days, 'Hey man, why don't you sit down?' But he doesn't want to. When it comes to games, I can't tell him that. He's not built that way. For him to miss a game, he'd really, really have to be hurt."
James hasn't shown any sign of the minutes catching up to him. He's played in every game this season and is averaging 26.5 points, 8.6 assists and 7.1 rebounds.
7hSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann