LeBron back with Cavs after missing five games with finger injury

Updated: December 11, 2007, 9:37 PM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James came back -- off the bench.

Cleveland's star forward, who missed the previous five games with a sprained left index finger, returned to the floor, but surprisingly not as a starter on Tuesday night when the Cavaliers hosted the Indiana Pacers.

James had started all 332 career regular-season NBA games before coming in with 5:59 remaining in the first quarter. He had also started 33 playoff games in his first four seasons as a pro.

It's unclear why Cavaliers coach Mike Brown chose not to start his best player. James has been a starter most of his life, even predating his rise to superstardom as a high school phenom in Akron.

He was a reserve on the U.S. Olympic team that won a bronze medal at the Athens Games in 2004.

James entered the game following a timeout, checking in with guard Larry Hughes and forward Anderson Varejao, who was making his season debut after ending a contract holdout last week by signing a three-year, $17 million contract.

Perhaps by bringing Varejao in at the same time as James, the Cavaliers were attempting to diffuse any negative reaction aimed at the Brazilian, who before ending his holdout had said he didn't want to play in Cleveland.

James wore a padded, protective glove over the knuckle on his finger, which was injured in a Nov. 28 game against Detroit when he was fouled on a drive to the basket by Pistons forward Nazr Mohammed.

The Cavaliers lost that game and dropped five in a row without James, the NBA's leading scorer.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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