Of the many reasons the Cleveland Cavaliers had for firing coach Mike Brown after five seasons without an NBA title, one mattered most.

They can't lose LeBron James.

Less than 2 weeks after their stunning, second-round loss to Boston in the NBA playoffs, the Cavaliers fired Brown yesterday, an expected move that perhaps indicates the team believes it can re-sign James, the two-time MVP and free agent-in-waiting.

Brown was the most successful coach in franchise history. In five seasons, he led the Cavs to the playoffs every year, to the finals in 2007 and to 127 wins in the past two seasons. But Brown failed to win a championship, and after Cleveland's second straight early exodus from the postseason - a collapse that included two blowout losses at home and dissension in the Cavs' locker room - and with James about to explore free agency, owner Dan Gilbert decided to make a change.

Noteworthy

* Phoenix guard Steve Nash has a broken nose but says he doesn't expect it to be a problem for him in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. He sustained the slight fracture in a fourth-quarter collision with Derek Fisher in the Suns' 118-109 victory over the Lakers on Sunday night. Nash spoke briefly with reporters after practice yesterday before leaving to have the nose put back in place by a specialist.

* A person familiar with the process told the Associated Press that Tom Thibodeau is the leading candidate to fill the New Orleans Hornets' coaching vacancy and the team could offer him the job this week.

* Indiana guard A.J. Price will need 4 to 6 months to heal from a knee injury he suffered while playing in a charity basketball game.