- Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com
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INDEPEDENCE, Ohio -- This summer LeBron James will go into production on his first feature film, a buddy comedy set in Las Vegas. Even though he's playing himself, he may be brushing up on his acting a tad in preparation.
There's no doubt that James is hurting right now. He's got a bit of a cranky right elbow and that is a rather important joint when it comes to scoring for a right-handed shooter. As for potential doomsday scenarios that are getting cooked up in the wake of his bizarre finish to Game 5 against the Chicago Bulls and Saturday's Game 1 against the rival Boston Celtics, well, that may be a bit scripted.
James played the part on Thursday, making sure to do just light and mostly left-handed shooting in front of the numerous television cameras at Cavs practice. He didn't take part in all of the workout under doctor's orders after an exam Wednesday night diagnosed James with a strain and bone bruise in his elbow.
The team says he'll be ready to play on Saturday.
Bone bruises take a while to heal and James has been in various stages of healing for about three weeks. But it was bothering him at the end of Tuesday's close-out win over the Bulls. His decision to shoot a free throw left-handed, moments after making a game-sealing one right-handed, injected the elbow issue with increased interest.
In promising to be ready for Game 1, James may be taking advantage of that concern and uncertainness.
"It is getting better, I'll be ready for Saturday," he said. "You've got to have some kind of concern because this is the biggest part of the season for all teams and all players and you want to be as healthy as possible."
James may not be 100 percent but he said that, despite the drama in Game 5, the injury was pretty much the same throughout the series with the Bulls. It doesn't get worse when he's hit on the elbow but the stinging pain and numbness tend to come and go during a game.
That is something, he said, he might have to account for.
"If I am limited during the game, then I'll be smart about it," James said. "That is what I did in Game 5. I was limited in shooting long-range shots so I started going to the hole in the fourth quarter."
It was bothering him at the end of Game 5 and even for parts of Game 4, where it flustered James so much that he made 11-of-17 shots and scored 37 points with 12 rebounds and 11 assists. In Game 5, he scored eight points in the fourth quarter to finish off the two-point win.
The "limited" James averaged 31.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.2 assists and shot 57 percent from the field and 54 percent from 3-point range in the 4-1 series win.
Which is why even the Celtics are somewhat suspicious that James is really going to be that affected by the elbow.
"No, he's fine," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I'll tell you what, if he goes three or four games and shoots left-handed only then I'll believe that it's hurting. Other than that, no, we're going to be ready for the LeBron that we've seen all through the playoffs."
"I figure this," said Paul Pierce, a man who knows a thing or two about drama surrounding injuries, "LeBron with a bad elbow is still better than 95 percent of the league. So it doesn't matter."
James said he is satisfied with the doctors' assessment of his condition and has been told that playing won't make the issue worsen. He also said there is no talk of surgery after the season and no need to wear splints or slings to rest it. Not that any of that may quell suspicion about just what might happen in the opener with Boston.
And James is probably alright with that mystery, too.
"I will be ready for Game 1 and I'll be a productive player," he said. "I want to go into the game 100 percent but if I'm not, I'll be OK."
Brian Windhorst covers the Cavs for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. You can read more of his coverage at cleveland.com/cavs.
2hMichael C. Wright