CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James made it back for the season opener. No surprise.
Limited for nearly three weeks by a sprained left ankle that sidelined him in practice and the preseason, James is playing in Cleveland’s opener Tuesday night against former sidekick Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics.
James, who hurt his ankle on Sept. 27 and played in just one exhibition, arrived at Quicken Loans Arena almost four hours before the opening tip to test his ankle and get treatment. After his workout, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said the 32-year-old told him he would give it a go.
“He feels pretty good, so he’s going to play,” Lue said.
The 32-year-old has never missed an NBA opener — or any first game — in his career and he wasn’t going to miss this one with Irving back in town for his Boston debut following this summer’s blockbuster trade between the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
Lue said James will not have his minutes restricted.
“He’s going to be tired anyway,” Lue joked. “He’s going to take himself out.”
James rolled his ankle during practice last month when he stepped on rookie Cedi Osman’s foot. He sat out Cleveland’s first three exhibitions before playing last week and scoring 17 points with eight turnovers in a loss to Chicago. James aggravated his ankle while making a spin move in that game, which put his status for the opener in question.
However, with a chance to face Irving, who has made some veiled comments about his relationship with James, the three-time champion will be on the floor.
James’ injury has prevented him from building much on-court chemistry with some of his new teammates. Dwayne Wade, who has been reunited with his close friend in Cleveland, said it may take some time for the Cavs to start clicking.
“Obviously LeBron is still making his way, feeling himself out, trying to make sure he’s healthy enough,” Wade said. “So we haven’t had a lot of time together with that unit but it’s not an excuse. We got to be ready to play. Everybody is excited about opening night around the world. We just got to be ready to play. If we make mistakes, we’ll figure it out. But we’re all excited. We’re excited to see him back on the court.”