Heat begin title defense at home against Bulls
Posted Oct 31 2006 9:37AM
Chicago (41-41) at Miami (52-30) 8:00 pm EST
MIAMI (Ticker) -- The same "old" Miami Heat open the 2006-07 season against the "newly experienced" Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.
The Heat closed the 2005-06 campaign by winning the final four games of the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, capturing their first title in franchise history. Dwyane Wade collected the Finals MVP Award, averaging 28.4 points per game and shooting 49.7 percent in the postseason.
During the offseason, Miami did not make any drastic changes like the year before, but the club did get older since Alonzo Mourning and Gary Payton have been brought back for possibly one last run at another championship.
With two seasoned veterans playing alongside an approaching 35-year-old Shaquille O'Neal, who averaged a career-low 20.0 points last season, age as well as complacency becomes an issue for the Heat.
The defending champs will receive their rings prior to facing the Bulls, whom they eliminated from the postseason in six games of the opening round of the 2006 Eastern Conference playoffs.
But this Bulls' team is a little different than the one the Heat faced back in April.
Chicago made one of the biggest signings during the offseason when it inked four-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace to a four-year deal. The Bulls also traded Tyson Chandler to the New Orleans Hornets for P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith, who was later dealt to the Denver Nuggets.
Chicago also acquired fourth overall pick Tyrus Thomas from Portland and Thabo Sefolosha, the 13th pick, from Philadelphia in a pair of draft-night trades. Thomas averaged 9.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in eight preseason games. Sefolosha went for 5.6, but shot just 34 percent in the same number of contests.
The Heat, who went 2-5 during the preseason, are 10-8 on Opening Night while the Bulls, who posted a 6-2 preseason mark, are 9-9 when starting the season on the road.
Miami guard Jason Williams will not be in the lineup due to knee surgery. He is expected to be out until Thanksgiving.
The Heat took two of the three meetings with the Bulls last year.