January 29, 2012; Miami, FL, USA;Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) defends as Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose (1) drives the ball in the second half of the game that the Heat won 97 to 93 at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat vs Chicago Bulls Opening Preview: Eastern Conference Favorites

LeBron James? Check. Derrick Rose? Check. Dwyane Wade? Check. The biggest rivalry in basketball? Check.

That’s what we get for the NBA season premier, Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET, when the Miami Heat host the Chicago Bulls. The Heat, wearing golden-embroidered jerseys, will receive their championship rings in front on, possibly, its biggest speed bump to winning a third-straight title.

Possibly, only because of Rose. Rose makes it possible, but he can also make it impossible. Without Rose, the Bulls don’t have much of a chance of a 7-game series upset. With Rose, however, is a completely different story. Rose is back, sure, but will his knee last an entire season without betraying him? That’s the biggest question facing the Bulls.

For tonight’s game, Joakim Noah said he will play. Kirk Hinrich is also expected to come off the bench. That puts the Bulls at full strength and gives tonight’s game a whole lottuh umph.

Everyone is healthy for the Heat, who took it easy for a majority of the preseason. This, my friends, should be a good one.

Key questions:

Who guards Derrick Rose in the first quarter? Who guards him in the fourth?

… this will likely be two different players should the game be close in final minutes. Expect positions to matchup early, with LeBron possibly switching to Rose in the last few minutes of the game.

How many minutes will Dwyane Wade play?

… One of the reasons Wade was so beat up in the playoffs last season was because of how often he went all out during the regular season games (particularly the 27-game win streak). The Heat are on no such streak, and it will be interesting to see how head coach Erik Spoelstra sets the tone for handling Wade’s minutes for the season.

Chris Bosh?

… Yeah, Bosh played great during the preseason. But that was the PREseason. How will he fair against an always-angry Joakim Noah? Noah is a terrific defender and improved his spacing last season. That is a huge factor in defending Bosh. While everyone is talking about Roy Hibbert, Noah could be Bosh’s Achilles heel this season.

Will the defense show up early?

… One of the main things Spoelstra stressed the most this offseason was defense, particularly starting off strong early in game and early in the season. He wants his team to be in midseason form today. Are they? Rose is a good test to find out.

What do you think of the game tonight? What do you think are the major questions facing the team this season? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Tags: Chicago Bulls Chris Bosh Derrick Rose Dwyane Wade Joakim Noah Lebron James Miami Heat NBA

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