- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2007

CLEVELAND — LeBron James hobbled around Quicken Loans Arena yesterday and did not participate in the Cavaliers’ shooting and weightlifting drills. James suffered a sprained left ankle Sunday in Game 1 but said he expects to play tomorrow.

“I expected the swelling and the stiffness,” he said. “If we had a game today, I would definitely be able to play.”

James suffered a Grade 2 sprain after landing on the foot of Wizards center Etan Thomas in the third quarter. The franchise player remained sprawled on the floor in pain, and trepidation swept through the Cavaliers’ home building.

“I kind of thought about, wow, if we don’t have LeBron, I kind of see what Washington is going through right now,” teammate Drew Gooden said. “I thought about it at that moment. When he got up and walked it off, there was sort of a reassurance in the air.”

James remained in the game and was able to finish. He has dealt with sprained ankles in the past and knows how to make the necessary adjustments.

“I was finally 100 percent health-wise, and now I turn my ankle,” he said. “I have to go back down to 80 again.”

Hughes feels good

Cavaliers guard Larry Hughes was still pleased yesterday after leading his team to victory in Game 1 with a 27-point, seven-rebound performance. The ex-Wizards player also tipped off his Cavaliers teammates on defense to give them an edge in slowing the Washington offense.

It was the kind of performance the Cavaliers expected when they signed him to five-year deal worth between $65 million and $70 million two years ago but rarely got in his first season in Cleveland.

“That I showed the guys that I can get it done is definitely a confidence boost for the team, myself and the coaching staff,” said Hughes, who suffered an injury to his shooting hand late last season and had to deal with the sudden death of his brother in the postseason.

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan though, thinks too much is being made of Hughes’ calling out the Washington’s plays.

“Everybody knows what everybody is doing. We are calling out their plays, too, so there is nothing different,” Jordan said. “When we hear a call we know exactly what they are doing, but can you stop it?

“That is the second part of it, and Larry Hughes knows some of the counters of what we do, and that is probably the most important thing. We understand that people know what we are going to do. Sometimes you have to coach around that, but it is no different than what we know about what they do.”

Butler still out

Caron Butler had the cast removed from his broken right hand yesterday afternoon but don’t expect to see him in the lineup any time soon.

Butler, who broke his hand against Milwaukee on April 1, won’t be permitted to have physical contact for at least the next seven to 10 days. The earliest possible game the Wizards forward could be ready for would be Game 4 at Washington on April 30.

The initial diagnosis for Butler was that he would be out at least six weeks.

“He’s not in our plans right now,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “If we get deeper in the playoffs, possibly, but not in the first round — to me.”

Butler’s fractured hand will remain in a splint.

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