James out against New York but good to go

By Tom Withers The Associated Press

CLEVELAND – Cavaliers star LeBron James sat out Thursday night’s game against the New York Knicks with a sprained left ankle he sustained late in the third quarter of a blowout loss at Detroit.

“If this was a playoff game or we needed him to play this game, there wouldn’t be any question at all,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “We’d tape him up. But he’s going to be inactive. We’ll wait to see how he is on a game-to-game basis.”

James arrived at Quicken Loans Arena about 1 1/2 hours before game time. He shook hands with Knicks coach Larry Brown – his coach on the U.S. team at the Athens Olympics – before walking without a limp to the Cavaliers locker room.

After hanging up his sport coat, James immediately went into the training room for treatment.

James was not available for comment during the period open to the media.

The All-Star forward rolled his ankle while being fouled on a drive to the basket with 1:46 left in the third quarter. He stayed in to shoot a free throw and complete a three-point play before hobbling off.

James, who had scored 22 points at the time of the injury, did not return to the Cavaliers’ 96-73 loss.

Mike Brown said his heart skipped a beat when the saw the 21-year-old superstar go down.

“I was worried,” Brown said. “We’d like to have LeBron James for the rest of the season.”

X-rays taken at The Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich., were negative. It was not clear if James underwent further medical tests in Cleveland.

James missed two games with a left ankle sprain last season and three as a rookie with a sprained right ankle.

With nothing meaningful left to play for after locking up the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Cavaliers will be extremely cautious with James, who has made a late MVP push. In the 10 games before his injury, the 21-year-old averaged 37.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 7.4 assists and the Cavaliers went 9-1.

Including their matchup with the Knicks, the Cavs have four games left in the regular season.

If there is a plus to James’ injury, it’s that Brown finally has a reason to rest his young superstar. James is averaging 42.7 minutes per game, second in the league to Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson (43.1).

“Anytime you can get that guy rest, that’s the way to go,” said Brown, who said he had planned to try to control James’ minutes over the final week anyway.

Brown wants to keep James fresh for the playoffs, which begin in another week.

“He needs to play. He needs to play with Larry Hughes. He needs to play with Z (Zydrunas Ilgauskas),” Brown said, referring to two players who have missed time to injury. “We’ve got four games left in the season and you can’t expect him to sit four games and come back and be the LeBron James that he is in the first game of the playoffs.

“I think that’s unfair to him and unfair to the team.”

Hughes, who missed 45 games with a fractured finger, started for James against the Knicks.