The NBA season officially opens an hour earlier, but when the Chicago Bulls arrive to play their big rivals and champions Miami Heat at the AmericanAirlines Arena we’ll know that the 2013-2014 campaign is off and running with a game that’s big because of its stars (LeBron James, Derrick Rose) and the rivalry.
There’s a very good chance that this game will also be what we see four to seven times in the NBA conference finals. Before the Miami Heat won two NBA titles, the Chicago Bulls finished as the top seed in the East for two years in a row, but then Derrick Rose was injured, and their progress was halted. However, now he’s back, and with him are the expectations to not only beat the Heat on opening night, but also avenge them for two playoff series over the last three years.
If you expect chippiness between the two sides, it should be quite evident from the first minute. LeBron James said that one of the things he relishes about receiving the championship rings is that it’s happening while the Bulls are watching. However, Chicago don’t have to resort to low-brow tactics anymore now that they have the best point guard in the NBA back in their midst, although it will take him some time to look like one once more.
The Bulls usually provide more than enough of a challenge for the Heat, splitting the series between the two teams last year. Rose has averaged 20.2 points per game against the Heat in 17 regular season and playoff games against Miami, but he has shot only 37.1% from the field, and it’ll be interesting to see if Miami send LeBron James on him if the game is still close during the final minutes.
Miami won’t feature anything new compared to last season – Greg Oden won’t be playing more than likely, playing only once in the preseason. Michael Beasley won’t be featured heavily as well, so the only change should be James Jones getting more minutes than before, filling in for Mike Miller, while Rashard Lewis will be unavailable as well. However, with LeBron James looking geared for a season that’s going to be just as good as the last one (averaging 26.8 points per game en route to a fourth MVP award) and Dwyane Wade slimmer and healthier than five months ago, the stagnancy in the roster shouldn’t make much of a difference.
The Bulls went undefeated during the preseason, and are getting acquainted once more with their star point guard, who has Jimmy Butler to share the backcourt with. There’s no more “bench mob” to rely on for Chicago, who’ll will need big games from all their starters in order to open the season with a win that means much more than just a 1-0 in the record.
Prediction – The Bulls are tipped by many to win the NBA title, but until the Miami Heat show any signs of decline, they have to be given the benefit of the doubt. They should win the home opener, even if it means more minutes than Spoelstra initially intends to give James and Wade.