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LeBron James hoping to return Thursday against Knicks, will wear protective mask

Cleveland Cavaliers v Charlotte Bobcats

After sitting out of the Miami Heat’s 93-79 win over the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, all signs are pointing to LeBron James’ return to the lineup on Thursday when the team takes on the New York Knicks.

James made his first return to practice on Tuesday since his nose was broken by an inadvertent elbow from Serge Ibaka during a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder last week.

“Every day is better,” James said following practice, according to an ESPN report. “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.”

But what about the mask? That’s can’t be fun, nor is it something James is looking forward to donning, either.

“It’s a difficult challenge … it feels like something, someone has a hand constantly in your face,” James said. “It’s like an added defender you don’t want.”

James does have experience with wearing a protective facemask. He wore one earlier in his career for protection (above0 while still with the Cavaliers after suffering a broken cheekbone during the 2004-05 season courtesy of a Dikembe Mutombo elbow.

The Heat will have James test out the facemask during Wednesday’s practice. If things go decently, expect LeBron to make a return after only a one-game absence.

While James’ participation in Tuesday’s practice involved no contact, it appears that the plan is to push LeBron during the practice to make certain he’s good to go.

“When we go full-contact, it’s like a game,” James said. “We go at it. We’ve got an alpha male team. It was noncontact for me, but it was contact for the rest of those guys. I’m not ready for contact just now.”

But what if he wore a Bane mask, something he alluded to jokingly on Instagram following the injury by posting a Photoshop of himself wearing the Batman villain’s headgear:

lebron-james-bane-mask

Now that would be cool.

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