LeBron James starts vs. Bulls

MIAMI -- LeBron James, suffering from a bruised right knee, started Friday night's game against the Chicago Bulls.

After participating in the Miami Heat's morning workout, James said he needed more treatment on the knee before deciding whether to play against the Bulls.

James sat out Thursday's practice and had extensive treatment for the injury he aggravated during Wednesday's overtime win against Dallas.

"It's been better," James said when asked how his knee responded. "I'm going to try to get in the training room to get some more work done on it, and hopefully by tonight, I'll be out there for my guys."

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said James completed the team's morning shootaround without any problems, although he did acknowledge the league's three-time MVP is dealing with nagging issues that might affect other players a lot more.

"I didn't want to come in (Friday) assuming anything," Spoelstra said. "He's had a couple of knick-knack injuries that would probably be bigger injuries for other people the way he's been hit. But because he's so sturdy and strong, he's been able to absorb that kind of contact."

James has been treated throughout the season for soreness in both knees and a shoulder.

"Spo always thinks I'm OK," James jokingly said. "It doesn't matter. It's always the same with Spo. He doesn't see any injury at all on anyone, so that doesn't change with him."

The minutes have been piling up for James in recent weeks as he's tried to lead the Heat out of some recent struggles. He played 42 minutes Wednesday against Dallas and went 48 minutes -- without a break in the second half -- during Monday's overtime road win against the Orlando Magic.

James, named the Eastern Conference player of the month for November and December, has played at least 40 minutes in eight of the Heat's past 15 games, including a few when he didn't take a break the entire second half.

Spoelsta insists James' heavy minutes aren't too much of a concern right now, and points to the fact that the 38.4 he's averaging this season are third-fewest of his career.

The Heat also have given James and other veterans practice time off and have canceled some workouts altogether.