MIAMI (AFP) - Miami Heat superstar LeBron James expects to return to the lineup on Thursday from a broken nose but wearing a protective face mask.
"I'm definitely wearing a mask if I play Thursday," James said after taking part in non-contact portions of the team's workout on Tuesday.
"I feel like I should be well enough to go Thursday, but we'll see. It's only Tuesday. We have a lot of time." James said that his nose has felt less painful every day since it was broken last Thursday by Oklahoma City big man Serge Ibaka as James drove to the basket on his way to a slam dunk in a road victory over the Thunder.
James leads the two-time defending NBA champion Heat with 26.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.5 assists a game this season.
The four-time NBA Most Valuable Player also said he plans to test the face mark in Wednesday workouts before using it when the New York Knicks visit Miami on Thursday.
James sat out last Sunday's 93-79 Miami home victory over Chicago as the Heat win streak grew to five games.
"Every day is getting better and better," said James. "I haven't been hit on (the nose) so that helps." At 40-14, the Heat own the third-best record in the NBA behind overall pace-setter Indiana (42-13) and Western Conference leader Oklahoma City (43-14).