Lebron James Expected To Make Triumphant Return On Thursday

Lebron James has had to watch his teammates attempt to win without him over the last few days. The Miami Heat star says he hopes the wait to return to the court will end on Thursday night though the return from a broken nose will likely involve wearing a special faceguard.

The guard will likely not look much different than others who are protecting their famous faces look like, but it also usually leads to a period of adjustment for the wearer. That means those hoping to see the old Lebron right away are likely to be disappointed. The good news is the Heat are sitting in a rather solid position when it comes to the playoff race as the NBA season heads toward the final stretch.

The superstar practiced on Tuesday for the first time since suffering the injury, but ABC News reports contact with James was ruled "out of bounds" by Miami's coaches. That meant that Lebron James didn't have to wear the mask during practice but he had been fitted for the device and expected to be sporting it on Thursday.

ESPN.com reported that the superstar said the injury has been getting better all the time, but he won't know whether the faceguard is going to work until he tries it out in game action.

"Every day is better. It's getting better, but I haven't been hit on it, either. It's too soon, but I think I should be fine enough to go on Thursday. It's only Tuesday, so we've got a lot of time."
The big negative, when it comes to the nose break is that it came during the most productive period of the season for the forward. James had been shooting 61.3 percent from the field while averaging 37 points, 9.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 3.3 steals over his last four games. The contest on Sunday was just the second game Lebron has missed all season and the team has managed to win both of those bouts despite his absence.

Miami Heat players said after the Tuesday practice that they didn't notice much drop off in their teammate's play even with the broken nose. "He [looked] the same," Chris Bosh told the media after practice. "He can break anything and he'll look the same. That's why he's LeBron. There was no mask today. So it'll be a surprise to everybody once we see it."

Miami might have won without him, but considering they still sit 1.5 games behind the Indiana Pacers for the best record in the East, its a safe bet his teammates will welcome Lebron James back on the court.

[Image via: Keith Allison]