Check lower for Dolphins notes. Here's a Heat report on the eve of the season opener:
In late June, when city of Miami workers were still cleaning up the confetti from the Heat’s championship parade, Bulls center Joakim Noah shared his vision for how this Heat season will end.
“I feel like we’ll be the team that beats them next year,” Noah told USA Today at the time. “I was driving in my car, and I just didn’t feel good about it at all after they won. We don’t like them. They don’t like us.”
The feeling is mutual, which was reiterated by the Heat’s Big Three on Monday, a day before the teams christen the NBA season at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“They don’t like us, so we don’t like them,” LeBron James said.
As Heat center Chris Bosh explained: “When you play teams a lot, you start to dislike them. I have nothing against anyone on Chicago personally. It’s just a healthy dislike for their team.
“We know they’re tired of us. And we’re tired of them… We have a special little thing with those guys.”
Nothing meaningful in the NBA is won in October, and grand conclusions should not be drawn from Tuesday’s opener.
But the Bulls, buoyed by the return of star guard Derrick Rose, certainly can make a resounding statement and ruin the celebratory mood on a night when Miami will receive its championship rings.
“When Dallas got their rings [on Christmas Day 2011], we wanted to embarrass them on their home floor, wanted to defecate on their night,” Bosh said of a Mavericks team that beat the Heat in the Finals in June 2011. “We know [the Bulls] want to do that to us and they want to spoil what we have going.”
Despite the ill will, there also is begrudging respect between these teams. James said he would make a point to welcome back Rose, who hasn’t played in a regular-season or postseason game since tearing his ACL in a 2012 first-round playoff game against Philadelphia.
"He’s going to play with a chip on his shoulder,” Dwyane Wade said.
Rose was terrific in preseason, averaging 20.7 points, 5.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds and shooting 44.4 percent on three-pointers in 27.4 minutes per game.
His return gives the Bulls the offensive punch they lacked in last year’s five-game Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Heat.
“He looks like he came back improved from where he left off, and that was MVP level,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Also significant for the Heat Tuesday: The players cannot allow themselves to be distracted by the pre-game merriment, as the 2006-07 Heat clearly was. That Heat team lost by 42 to the Bulls on Miami’s championship ring night.
Last season’s Heat handled the situation far better, beating Boston by eight.
“That will be the final burial for us of last year,” Spoelstra said of a pre-game ceremony scheduled to start at 7:15 p.m. “We’ve been trying to throw dirt on it, respectfully.
“We have to let it go and move on, but we don’t do that until that banner is up. It’s not the ideal moment [to receive rings]. We have to manage our emotions and understand we’re going to be in for a dogfight after that ceremony.”
Said Udonis Haslem: “I wish we could get the rings on the day of the parade. That would make things a lot easier.”
The two-team defending champion Heat enters with arguably its deepest team ever. The question is how much of that depth Spoelstra will use, beyond his starters and top four reserves: Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Chris Andersen and Norris Cole.
That leaves Michael Beasley, James Jones, Rashard Lewis, Roger Mason Jr., Greg Oden (when healthy) and Joel Anthony competing for any remaining minutes.
For perspective on how Spoelstra uses his bench, consider these numbers from the Heat’s 27-game winning streak last season and the streak-busting loss to Chicago: Of the 16 close games during that streak, Spoelstra used a 10th player only 10 times, for 4.2 minutes per game. He used an 11th (Joel Anthony) for a total of five minutes.
"We really brought down the minutes of our main guys down to career-low levels last season,” Spoelstra said. “I don't anticipate us taking them down to 30 minutes a game."
Oden sounded Monday as if he doesn’t expect to play. He hasn’t been cleared to participate in five-on-five work in recent days, and Spoelstra said his status will be evaluated daily.
“I would rather be playing,” Oden said. “Once I am out there, I will be even happier.”
Wade succinctly captured the essence of this regular season for the Heat.
“Our goal here is not to get bored,” he said. “Don’t get bored with trying to be great. Don’t think because we show up we’re going to win a game. That’s not how it goes.”
There’s assuredly no risk of boredom Tuesday.
A few Dolphins notes:
### There was no great, miraculous news in Brandon Gibson’s test results Monday. He is expected to miss the season with a serious knee injury. The team will audition unemployed receivers this week.
### Though the Dolphins keep saying Dion Jordan will play more, it never seems to happen. He played just 18 of Miami’s 68 defensive snaps Sunday and rushed the quarterback on seven of them. Cam Wake, still somewhat limited by a knee injury, played just 34. Reserve defensive tackle Isaako Auitu pleased nearly as many snaps as Jordan (16).
### Here’s Pro Football Focus assessed responsibility for Sunday’s sacks: Richie Incognito was charged with two, Bryant McKinnie one, Jonathan Martin 1 and Lamar Miller 1. One of the sacks went unaccounted for in their grades.
### Pro Football Focus gave Martin by far the worst grade among Dolphins offensive players. He allowed three hurries, in addition to his sack.
### After Gibson’s injury, Miami gave most of his snaps to Rishard Matthews (37) but also made more use of tight ends Dion Sims (29) and Michael Egnew (30). Charles Clay played 67 of Miami’s 80 snaps. Lamar Miller played 51, Daniel Thomas 27.
### Mike Wallace was targeted most of the Dolphins' receivers (10 times), but only three were completed, and he dropped one. And of course, Tannehill's first interception was intended for Wallace.
### Though Ryan Tannehill struggled at times with the blitz, his numbers were slightly better against the blitz: 12 for 23, 130 yards than when he wasn't blitzed (10 for 19, 62 yards).
### Please check back later for lots of quotes from the late afternoon press conferences of Joe Philbin and the Heat coordinator.