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James expects to rejoin Heat lineup Thursday

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MIAMI (AP)

LeBron James stood in the corner of the Miami Heat practice gym, cursing but grinning after missing another 3-point shot, then flopped to the hardwood and did a push-up as self-imposed punishment.

Teammates watched and laughed as the sequence repeated several times, a sure sign their MVP is feeling better.

James took part in non-contact drills Tuesday and said he should be able to rejoin the lineup Thursday against the New York Knicks. He missed Sunday's victory over the Chicago Bulls after breaking his nose in the previous game.

James dispensed with the bandage he wore late last week and said his headaches have subsided. But he's not yet ready for contact drills and still in a little pain while the nose heals.

''Every day is better,'' he said. ''I haven't been hit on it either. That definitely helps.''

James may try out a new protective mask in practice Wednesday and will wear it in games.

He did a lot of running and other conditioning Tuesday, worked with his teammates on offensive sets and shot baskets. How did he look?

''The same,'' Chris Bosh said. ''He can break anything, and he'll still look the same. That's why he's LeBron.''

Sunday's game was only the second James has missed this season. The Heat improved to 2-0 without him, but he didn't enjoy watching from the bench.

''It was terrible,'' he said. ''I was happy we got the win, but I hate sitting out.''

He's not looking forward to wearing a mask, either. He has experience, because he broke his cheek while with the Cleveland Cavaliers 10 years ago and wore a mask then.

''It's a difficult challenge,'' James said. ''It's like somebody constantly has a hand in your face. It's like an added defender you definitely don't want.''

Despite hindered vision and the possibility of aggravating the injury by taking another blow to the face, James said he'll still drive to the basket.

''I won't change my game because of the mask,'' he said. ''I'll probably be a little tentative when I first get out there, but I think I'll get used to it.''

James said his nose is most bothersome early in the morning and late at night, but feels better during the day.

Does it hurt when he does the push-ups?

''Nah,'' he said with a laugh. ''My arms hurt when I do push-ups.''

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Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve-Wine

Tagged: Heat, LeBron James

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