Miami Heat forward LeBron James returned to practice on Tuesday for the first time since breaking his nose last week and hopes to play Thursday night against the New York Knicks.
James was not wearing a protective mask at practice on Tuesday but said he was fitted for one and will need it for the next few weeks. The plan is to test the mask during Wednesday's practice and then be re-evaluated before he is cleared to play Thursday night.
"Every day is better," James said. "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."
James was injured last Thursday night on a dunk in a game against Oklahoma City when Thunder forward Serge Ibaka struck him in the face. James did not play Sunday at home in a win over the Chicago Bulls.
Before the injury, James was averaging 37 points, 9.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 3.3 steals in the past four games.
During Tuesday's practice, James worked in some five-on-five drills but sat out during scrimmages.
"I'm not ready for contact just now," he said.
Heat forward Chris Bosh said, "He (looked) the same. 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."
Earlier in his career, James wore a mask to cover a broken cheekbone and so he knows the challenges it presents.
"It feels like something, someone has a hand constantly in your face," James said. "It's like an added defender you don't want."