LeBron Dismisses Concern Over Elbow
After the game James used words that sent chills down the backs of Cleveland fans when he said in the past couple days he had an MRI and X-rays on his sore right elbow.
But James also tried to calm nerves by saying there was nothing structurally wrong, he expected to keep on playing and Cleveland fans had no reason to worry.
"I just want to try to get a better sense of what it may be," James said after the Cavs had beaten the Chicago Bulls 96-94 Tuesday night. "Cleveland fans have nothing to be worried about. I'm healthy. I'm ready, and we are looking forward to the second round.
"They don't have any reason to panic."
Try telling them that. Because the story coming out of the Game 5 win over Chicago wasn't as much that the Cavs closed out the first-round series as it was the league's MVP grimacing while holding his right arm as if he couldn't move it or feel it.
"I don't know what's going on," James said. "I've done tests to try and figure this thing out, but it almost feels like you hit your funny bone and it kind of numbs up for a little bit."
James could not specify when the problem started.
"I've never had a problem with my elbow before," he said. "Probably minor stuff in the past. I don't know exactly when it happened; I can't figure it out. It's been going on for a couple weeks. Hopefully it doesn't continue to bother me as we continue to move on in the postseason.
"It bothers me more because I don't know exactly what it is. I don't know what's going on, but we will figure it out."
Best-case scenario: A few days of rest before the next series against Boston -- a series that could be contentious -- solve things.
"Hopefully it's nothing bad," Cavs center Shaquille O'Neal said. "He's a tough kid, unanimous MVP, and he'll be fine."
The worst-case scenario? The problem lingers and continues to affect James, giving Cleveland fans another two-word phrase to go with the The Drive, The Shot and The Fumble: The Elbow.
James had the MRI at the Cleveland Clinic. He shrugged off a question about visiting a specialist like the famed Dr. James Andrews in Alabama.
"I don't think it's that bad," he said.
Still ... the Cavs sent O'Neal to the National Hand Center in Baltimore when he hurt his thumb in February. It would not be surprising if James were to visit a specialist like Andrews given the time of year and the importance of the player.
During the Game 4 win in Chicago, James briefly went to the locker room at the beginning of the second quarter to have the elbow checked. The Cavs said it was normal wear and tear from a long season, and James continued to play. And the way he played made the elbow a non-issue.
In Game 4, James had the elbow examined and he finished with 37 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. In Game 5, he had 16 second-half points and came within one assist of a triple-double with the elbow going numb in the final minutes. In the five-game series, he averaged 31.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.2 assists. With a sore elbow.
"I don't want to harp on injures," he said. "If I'm on the court, I'm healthy."
James played 43 minutes and scored 19 points on Tuesday. He tied his playoff low with just three points in the first half, but the Cavs had a 55-48 lead. He said taking three shots the first half was caused by the "flow of the game" and not the elbow.
He said it bothered him throughout the second half, but it never showed until Derrick Rose missed a runner with 4:49 left -- the ball was two-thirds down but somehow came out -- and James ripped the rebound away from several players. With 3:29 left, a timeout was called and James went to the bench clearly favoring the arm. He came out of the timeout holding his arm at his waist. When he spoke to his teammates, he gestured only with his left hand. The final 3:29 he used the arm only when he had to.
In that time, James took just one shot. He made three free throws, but after the third he looked to his bench. Coach Mike Brown said James was asking if the Cavs had a 20-second timeout.
"Apparently he wanted to take a timeout to get his elbow stretched or looked at or something like that," Brown said. "I did not pick up on it at the time, and so he shot the free throw left-handed."
As for the series, Chicago challenged the Cavs, especially in the last game, which could have gone the Bulls' way had two Rose fourth-quarter shots that were all but in not somehow rolled out, and had the officials given Rose continuation and a basket in the fourth quarter when he was fouled by O'Neal. Those breaks went Cleveland's way, and as a result the Cavs advance to face the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Game 1 of that series will be played in Cleveland on Saturday.
"We knew at some point that we'd have to face them," James said. "We're happy that it's now."
Assuming, of course, that his elbow holds up.