Mark Cuban, owner of the last team to defeat the Miami Heat in an NBA Finals, recently uttered the names Micky Arison and Al Davis in the same sentence while comparing Arison’s Heat with Davis’ Oakland Raiders.
Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah has forever called the Heat “Hollywood as hell.”
The Indiana Pacers, which have made losing to Miami in the playoffs an annual event, think the Heat gets away with cheating on defense and believe this so passionately that their coach once paid thousands of dollars in fines to say it publicly.
Such is the hate and hype around the NBA as the Miami Heat opens its regular season Tuesday night, seeking a championship three-peat and bragging rights as the third franchise in NBA history to make it to four consecutive NBA Finals.
In other words, there is no shortage of motivation for teams lining up this season to take their best shots at LeBron James and the Heat. Once again, everyone wants to knock off the champs, and, once again, the Heat must navigate the emotional and physical rigors of defending a title. It’s tiring business being the king of a rebellious empire, and, as Cuban so rightly pointed out this preseason, the Heat has been the NBA’s “bad guys” going on four seasons now.
“That’s always good for the NBA, when you have a team that everybody looks forward to beating,” said Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks. “It’s just like when we beat them. I would go in places I’ve never been, and people would give me a standing ovation. That’s good for the NBA.”
Almost in response to Cuban, the Heat’s owner has used social media to count down the days leading up to opening night with professionally produced highlight videos that celebrate the Heat’s past championships. Rubbing opponents’ noses in the Heat’s success probably isn’t going to make anything easier this season, but the Heat has never done anything modestly. That’s just not Miami’s style.
On Monday, Arison tweeted “1 day until #HEAT2013Opening- Night” and “enjoy the ride,” along with a link to a video that featured the Heat receiving its 2012 championship rings.
For the Heat, the foundations of defending its second title in a row began this preseason in the Bahamas, and opening night of the regular season is Act 1 in a drama that is likely to stretch out for six months. First up Tuesday night are the Bulls, who will watch the Heat receive its 2013 championship rings in an elaborate pregame ceremony and then take the floor with point guard Derrick Rose for the first time since 2012.
The return of Rose, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the first round of the 2012 playoffs, is one of the NBA’s biggest storylines heading into the season. The other, of course, is the Heat, which has won back-to-back championships and in May and June delivered back-to-back series in the Eastern Conference finals and NBA Finals on par with the best postseason memories in league history.
With the Miami Dolphins once again struggling, the Heat’s made-for-TV matchup on Tuesday will rekindle the flames of Heat mania in South Florida that never really went away.
‘Work to do’
Traditionally, teams have fared well on opening night the season after winning a championship. Since the 1989-90 Detroit Pistons, defending champions are 19-5 in the first games following title runs. The 2006-07 Heat lost to the Bulls on opening night, but Miami defeated the Celtics to begin the 2012-13 season. In 2011-12, the Heat defeated the Mavericks on opening night to avenge the 2011 Finals.