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By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor

The date was July 9, 2010.

On that night, LeBron James made his now infamous statement about the Miami Heat and the team's title hopes in the wake of its newly-signed core.

"Not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven," James said when asked about winning multiple NBA Championships.

You've got to get that first one before you can reach the numbers bandied about by the brazen James.

It only took two years to get that first one.

The Miami Heat begin this 2012-13 season as the defending champions. They bested the pesky, talented Oklahoma City Thunder in five games in last season's NBA Finals.

They are the hunted, but let's face it, they were before they won that title. The Heat are the villains of the NBA, the group of stars who decided that their best way to win a title was together.

This offseason did nothing to dismiss that notion.

Although the Heat are gifted with grunt guys like Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier and Joel Anthony, the team felt like it lacked in 3- point shooting.

Mike Miller is getting old and hobbled and some were surprised when he returned for another season.

But leave it to the Heat to address their 3-point shooting woes with the best 3-point shooter in history and future Hall-of-Famer, Ray Allen.

"It's great to be on this side of it now," said Allen, who bolted the rival Boston Celtics this offseason to join the Heat. "Everybody can shoot. It gives Spoels (head coach Erik Spoelstra) so many different options out there on the floor."

Allen wasn't the only proficient 3-point shooter to join the Heat. Rashard Lewis signed a free-agent deal to come off the bench and be another spot-up shooter.

With significant improvement, specifically addressed at the team's biggest weakness, coupled with gaudy Championship rings, the Heat will once again have lofty expectations.

But that didn't stop the team from tinkering.

Bosh will see most of his time at the center spot. Spoelstra is trying to implement a system of "positionless" players and is excited by what this season can bring.

"We're all going to start together again from the beginning. None of us have been through this before. That type of opportunity is really invigorating," said Spoelstra. "We know how difficult it is to start from the very beginning of the starting line and to try to climb that mountain again. We're the only team right now that has an opportunity to win a title two years in a row."

2011-12 Results: 46-20, first in Southeast; NBA Champions.

KEY ADDITIONS: G Ray Allen, F Rashard Lewis

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:

PG- Mario Chalmers SG- Dwyane Wade SF- LeBron James PF- Shane Battier C- Chris Bosh

KEY RESERVES: C Joel Anthony, F Udonis Haslem, G Ray Allen, G Mike Miller, G Norris Cole, F James Jones

FRONTCOURT: James is the best player in the world and pocketed his third regular-season MVP Award. He added a Finals MVP to his always-growing mantle and there's no reason to believe that will subside anytime soon.

James led Team USA to another Olympic Gold Medal this summer, but fatigue won't be an issue. His willingness to do anything his team needs for a victory is a remarkably unselfish trait in a very selfish league.

When Bosh went down with injury last season in the playoffs, James played some power forward. Even as a low-post player, where his game improved immensely last season, James would still cover the opponent's best offensive weapon.

He heads into the 2012-13 season as the presumptive favorite for another MVP award and the true leader of the league's best team.

Bosh's value was really magnified when he went down with a lower-abdominal strain in Game 1 of last season's Eastern Conference Semifinals. The team struggled in his absence and the Indiana Pacers frontcourt beat up on the Heat.

But this season, after many years of resistance, Bosh will be his team's center. The lineup that won the Heat a title featured Bosh in the middle with James at the "4." Spoelstra said everyone should feel a little more comfortable in this "positionless" system.

Versatility is the key to doing something like this and we all know where that starts.

"The one guy that makes it all happen is LeBron," Battier said. "Talk about a skeleton key if there ever was one. It's LeBron. With LeBron, you can throw any lineup out there and it will work."

BACKCOURT: Dwyane Wade is a top-five player in the league, but the biggest development in the Heat's run to the title was his deference to James, finally.

He will still score his points and is an above-average defender. Wade can handle the ball in this new system if need be.

The question mark is Wade's left knee. Arthroscopic surgery last July cost him another Olympic gold medal and will cost him some time during the preseason.

"I'm working in things slowly," said Wade.

Chalmers established himself with a strong run in last season's playoffs. He had 25 points in Game 4 of the Finals and had 11 points in the fourth quarter of Game 5.

BENCH: The bench is a veteran group littered with hard-working defensive guys like Haslem and Anthony, and sharp-shooters like Allen, Jones, Miller and Lewis.

Cole represents a nice change of pace from the older bench group.

The bench won't be counted on too terribly, but the Heat will get plenty out of this group. It will open up the floor for James and Wade and every shooter off the pine has to be accounted for.

COACHING: Spoelstra took endless amounts of grief his first few years in the league. They were many calls for team President Pat Riley to replace Spoelstra himself, but Riley stuck with his protege and the decision resulted in a championship.

Spoelstra's decision this year to abandon the conventional notion of five distinct positions should be received well. He has gained his stars' trust and gained confidence every year on the bench.

OUTLOOK: The sky is the limit for the Miami Heat.

They start the season as the prohibitive favorite to successfully defend their title.

Last season, they had the most talent in the league and had just one weakness. Miami addressed it in the offseason in the most spectacular way imaginable with Allen and Lewis.

James, Wade and Bosh are still young and their professionalism means the Heat don't take nights off. Allen and Lewis will be invigorated by their new addresses, too.

The Heat finished second in the East the last two years behind the Chicago Bulls. With Derrick Rose on the shelf after an ACL tear, the Heat should comfortably finish with the best record in the conference.

Another title certainly isn't just within reach, it should be expected.

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