- Associated Press - Thursday, October 21, 2010

MIAMI (AP) - A freak injury to Mike Miller’s right thumb is expected to keep one of the NBA’s top 3-point shooters sidelined for several weeks, yet another blow to the injury-prone Miami Heat.

Miller was injured when the thumb on his shooting hand got tangled in a teammate’s jersey during practice Wednesday. The Heat have not revealed a formal diagnosis or possible recovery time.

Coach Erik Spoelstra said before Thursday night’s preseason game in Atlanta that MRI results on Miller’s thumb were not yet available.

LeBron James said he talked with Miller, who is disappointed.

“He’s down,” James said Thursday night. “Of course he is. This is an exciting season. It’s an exciting season for himself. When you work out a lot in the offseason and get prepared for the regular season, and you have a freak accident happen like that, he’s down. You really can’t understand what he’s going through right now.”

James said he is optimistic Miller will return for the majority of the season.

“We know how important Mike is to this team, but he’s going to have an opportunity to get some rest, get his body healed up and he’ll be back for the long run,” James said.

Miller is not on the trip with the Heat, a swing that concludes with the preseason finale in Tampa, Fla. on Friday against Orlando. His injury is expected to be reviewed by hand surgeon Dr. Andrew Weiland, a New York-based specialist who regularly treats professional athletes.

Miller had been starting at shooting guard during the preseason in place of Dwyane Wade, who has missed all but the first 3:17 of the exhibition schedule with a strained right hamstring. Miller was averaging 9.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 24.4 preseason minutes per game with Miami.

Wade, who has also been dealing with a trial that’ll decide custody of his two young sons, is expected to resume working out with teammates on Sunday _ just two days before Miami opens the regular season in Boston. He’s expected to be in Tampa for the preseason finale against the Magic, but will not play.

Oddly, there was a slew of good news for the Heat on injury fronts Thursday. Guards Mario Chalmers (ankle) and Eddie House (shoulder) were deemed healthy enough to play against the Hawks, and Wade has been cleared for full contact drills, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

But the Miller situation may overshadow all that news.

Miller signed a $25 million, five-year contract with Miami this summer. He was the NBA’s second-best shooter from 3-point range _ 48 percent _ last season and came to the Heat in large part because of the opportunities he could get playing alongside Wade, James and Chris Bosh.

“It’s unfortunate,” James said. “Like Coach Spoe said, no one said it was going to be easy and no one said we weren’t going to have adversity throughout the season. I mean, when you have injuries, the best thing about it is you have an opportunity for someone to step up.”

For his career, Miller has averaged 13.7 points on 46 percent shooting, 41 percent shooting from 3-point range.

With Miller sidelined, the Heat will likely use James Jones _ another top 3-point shooter _ even more at small forward than perhaps originally planned.

___

AP Freelance Writer Amy Jinkner-Lloyd contributed to this report from Atlanta.

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