CLEVELAND -- LeBron James didn't practice Friday and will
miss his fifth straight game with a sprained left index finger when
the Cavaliers play Saturday night at Charlotte.
In speaking to reporters for the first time since he sprained
the finger at Detroit on Nov. 28, when Nazr Mohammed slapped at the
ball as he attempted to shoot, James had a message for the
"Teams better get their wins now," he said. "They try to kill
us and talk trash about us now ... When we get our guys back, it's
going to be a different story."
The defending Eastern Conference champions have also been
without Larry Hughes (bone bruise), Donyell Marshall (sprained
right wrist) and Anderson Varejao (contract holdout). The Cavaliers
(9-11) have been beaten by an average margin of nearly 19 points in
their losing streak.
"It's definitely tough because we're struggling right now with
me not being out there," James said. "I want to go out and help
James' finger is stiff and he is being cautious with the sprain,
which is on top of his knuckle.
"You don't want to make it long term. I'm trying to take care
of it, so if I get hit again, I don't have to sit again," he said.
It's the longest stretch of games that James has missed and the
most in a season. But if it were late April, he'd be playing.
"If it was a time we needed these games more than anything, I'd
be out there," he said.
Hughes practiced Friday for the first time in weeks and is
listed as questionable for Saturday night. The fragile guard
injured his left leg Nov. 4 at Phoenix when he collided with
"If there's no problem tomorrow, there's a good chance I could
get out there and play," he said.
Varejao rejoined the team Friday, two days after Cleveland
matched Charlotte's $17 million, three-year offer sheet for the
restricted free agent. Varejao didn't practice Friday and has to
work out visa issues before he can play.
He could return Tuesday at home against Indiana. He acknowledged
he's not in basketball shape.
"I'm here. I'm going to try to help the team as much as I
can," he said.
He should be able to improve a defense that's allowed an average
of 101.4 points in 20 games compared with 92.9 points per game last
James is the only remedy for everything else that's ailing the
Cavaliers no offense and a lack of focus.
"It's just whenever I feel I'm comfortable to go back out there
and my hand feels a little bit better, I'm going to give it a go,"
he said. "It's not like I'm just taking my time."