- Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com
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CLEVELAND -- Three weeks ago LeBron James was shooting free throws after practice when he felt an odd sensation in his right arm, a tingling and a numbness.
He shook it and then snapped it back and forth, flexing his fingers like he'd just woken up only to realize an extremity was asleep. This feeling has come back to James repeatedly since then, prompting him to search his memory in vain as to when he might have injured his elbow.
Just to be safe, James started wearing a sleeve on his arm with a protective pad over the elbow. When sitting out the final four games of the regular season, the elbow was part of the reason.
The odd issue occurred again in the second quarter this past Sunday in Chicago, when James checked out of the Cavs' Game 4 win over the Bulls. He went to the locker room and had the team doctor look at it, and nothing was found to be wrong.
Then James went out and made 9 of 13 shots, scored 32 points and had seven rebounds and seven assists over the last three quarters of his triple-double performance in the Cavs' blowout win.
Just to make sure there was indeed nothing wrong with his elbow, James went to the Cleveland Clinic and had a full workup Monday. With team athletic trainers watching from the Cavs' practice facility via a closed-circuit link from the hospital -- one of the benefits of the building being named Cleveland Clinic Courts -- James had an MRI.
The results, the doctors told the team, were "unremarkable." In other words, it was one of those things covered by the "bumps and bruises" diagnosis.
So why, then, was James grasping his elbow in the final seconds of the Cavs' series-clinching Game 5 win over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night? And furthermore, why did he take the unusual and alarming step of taking a free throw left-handed with seven seconds left and the Cavs up by only four points?
That turn of events, on national television no less, immediately cast a foreboding shadow as the Cavs prepare for what promises to be a rugged series with the Boston Celtics.
"I don't know, honestly, what's going on with it," James said after his 19-point, 10-rebound and nine-assist effort in the Cavs' 98-96 victory.
"It almost feels like you hit your funny bone and it kind of numbs up for a little bit. It bothers me more because I don't actually know what it is. I don't know what is going on, but we'll figure it out."
The elbow was going numb on and off throughout the game for James, though it didn't seem to affect his play. But late in the fourth quarter when he banged it on the court after falling in an attempt to block a Derrick Rose shot, it did cause problems. Caused him to shoot left-handed, actually.
James, who has a flair for the dramatic when it comes to milking minor injuries, shrugged it off as if it was a standard bruise, even acting like it wasn't downright bizarre that he would take a valuable free throw left-handed.
There was some miscommunication over whether the Cavs had an extra timeout -- they did -- but James seemed to ignore the peculiar decision and injury as if it was inconsequential.
"I'm not concerned," James said. "I'm healthy, I'm ready and we are looking forward to the second round."
Though the elbow may have caused some trouble over the past two games, James will get three days off before the Celtics come to town for Game 1 on Saturday. And he did finish the series averaging 31.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 2.4 blocks while shooting 57 percent with that elbow.
Which is why he swatted away foreboding. Or at least tried to.
"Cleveland fans have nothing to be worried about," he said. "They don't have any reason to panic."
Brian Windhorst covers the Cavs for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.