Let’s get ready to rumble. It’s opening night for the NBA and headlining tonight’s action is the much anticipated battle between the defending champion Miami Heat and their bitter rival Chicago Bulls. Rarely has their been a regular season game with so many story lines, so much intrigue. Highlighted by the return of Derrick Rose and the raising of the championship banner, not to mention, the fact that these teams despise each other makes for a game that holds a lot of promise.
- “Threepeat” – There is simply no bigger story in the NBA than the Heat’s quest to be only the third team to accomplish the feat in the last 40 years. This team has overcome obstacle after obstacle, including a failed first attempt at the championship. Although there have been moves by contenders to improve their teams, the Heat still remain the favorites. The focus and determination this preseason are good signs for the defenders. They aren’t taking this quest lightly
- Derrick Rose returns – Almost a year and a half after tearing up his knee, Derrick Rose returns to the Bull’s line up. Everyone from Vegas bookmakers to the media talking heads are re-anointing Rose as one of the best in the game. Many are jumping to the conclusion that Rose returning vaults the Bulls into championship contention. I’m not so sure about that. While Rose rejoining the Bulls gives them an amazingly dynamic offensive player, for the Bulls to knock the Heat out in the playoffs, he is going to have to become smarter and better on the defensive end of the court. Let us not forget that the Bulls, with home court advantage and MVP Derrick Rose won the same amount of games against the Heat as last year’s Rose-less, banged up unit did: ONE. The Bulls have the best regular season record versus the Heat during the LeBron era at 7-4. That has not translated to the playoffs where they are only 2-8 during that same time span.
- Dwyane Wade under the microscope – I can’t even imagine what must go through the head of Dwyane Wade while listening to the talking heads eviscerate him as a player and sometimes as a person. Last year in the Eastern Conference Finals one teams star guard fought through a debilitating and painful knee injury to give his team everything he had, even if it was only 60% of his best. The other participant’s best guard decided, even though he was physically the MOST HEALTHY PLAYER IN THE SERIES, to sit out and watch his team. And now just three short months later we’re questioning the warrior and coronating the malingerer. Tonight’s game is the first step in what I believe will be a return to greatness for Wade.
- Physical play - LeBron has come out this week and declared that the Heat don’t like the Bulls. I don’t think this is based on rivalry, the Heat’s 8-2 playoff record against them certainly backs that belief up. The Bulls go out of their way to physically punish the Heat. It’s no secret that the Heat organization feels they cross the line in their methods. However, for the last two years, there really hasn’t been anyone on the Bulls for the Heat to retaliate against. There is now. It will be interesting to see if LeBron takes a cheap shot, whether or not, Derrick Rose gets one back.
Other Opening Night Games
Pacers vs. Magic: An interesting match-up between a team that has gone all in for a championship, and a team that has gone all in for a chance at the number one pick in the draft next year. Although on paper this one looks like a snooze-fest, I think the Magic match up well with the Pacers. This could be a close game.
Clippers vs. Lakers: It’s the battle for Los Angeles. For this writer, it is the first game in Chris Paul’s put up or shut up year. For so many seasons, Paul has been regarded as the games best point guard. For so many seasons, Paul’s playoff failures have been deflected off him for one reason or another. Well this year there’s no excuse. The Clippers have an all star big man, a dominating defensive big man, the reigning sixth man of the year, they’ve added elite three point shooters, and most importantly they’ve made the biggest coaching upgrade, maybe of all time. Nothing short of a finals appearance should be considered a success this year.
It’s almost time, say it with me!
#LET’S GO HEAT
#LET’S GO HEAT
#LET’S GO HEAT