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                === Heat get rings as Rose returns for Bulls ===
 
 (SportsNetwork.com)  - The  Miami  Heat  will hang  a  third NBA  championship
 banner,  and second  in a row, when  they kick off their title defense Tuesday
 night against the Chicago Bulls.
 
 Commissioner  David Stern will  be on hand to dole out some fancy jewelry. The
 Heat  players will receive the championship rings pre-game as Miami will begin
 its quest for a third consecutive title.
 
 "It's  an  exciting time  for us,  for our fans,  for our franchise," two-time
 reigning  MVP LeBron  James  said after  practice on  Monday.  "But, we  can't
 prepare for it."
 
 And  what about the fact that the Heat get their rings and banner ceremony, on
 opening  night, at  AmericanAirlines  Arena,  and against  the  Bulls, a  team
 several pundits picked to usurp the Heat in the Eastern Conference?
 
 "It didn't matter who it was," said James, ever the diplomat.
 
 "But,  we  like the fact that  it is the Bulls.  It makes us stay on our toes.
 It's exciting. It's great for the league."
 
 It's definitely great for the NBA, pitting arguably the two best teams against
 each other on opening night.
 
 It's  also great  that James  will battle  Derrick Rose,  the former  MVP, who
 missed all of last season when he tore his ACL in the playoffs in 2012.
 
 Rose  took his  fair share of criticism for sitting the entire season, despite
 the Bulls announcing he was medically cleared to play. Rose didn't feel ready,
 but he does now and has had this day circled on his calendar.
 
 "It's  just going  to be an emotional  day," Rose said back in September about
 this night. "Just playing again and being around my teammates and being in the
 atmosphere  of an arena,  playing in front of people...I haven't had that in a
 long time."
 
 Rose's  return should propel a Bulls team that lost to the Heat in the Eastern
 Conference  semifinals  last season. Chicago  knocked off the Brooklyn Nets in
 Game 7 at the Barclays Center last season, but Miami then dispatched the Bulls
 in five games.
 
 That was all without Rose.
 
 The two seasons prior to last, the Bulls were the No. 1 seed in the East. Rose
 won  the MVP  in 2011 and Tom Thibodeau  was named Coach of the Year. Yet, the
 Bulls never made it past the Heat.
 
 This season, the Bulls still boast an incredible defense (third last season in
 points  allowed), a  great starting  unit with  former All-Stars  Joakim Noah,
 Carlos  Boozer  and Luol Deng alongside  Rose and Jimmy Butler, who emerged in
 the postseason.
 
 But, all roads to championship banners run through Miami.
 
 James is the best player by miles and is the odds-on favorite for a fifth MVP.
 At  28, James is  still in the prime of his career, although this season might
 be  taxing at times. He can opt out of his contract with the Heat and become a
 free agent, but James doesn't want to discuss that during the season.
 
 (Good luck.)
 
 Dwyane  Wade  had an awesome  regular season last  season and an awful playoff
 run.  Same goes for Chris Bosh. Both can also vacate their contracts, but both
 should be much improved from their disastrous postseason performances.
 
 The  biggest additions  in Miami this offseason  came in the form of Greg Oden
 and  Michael  Beasley. They  went first  and second  in the  2007 and 2008 NBA
 drafts,  respectively. Oden's  career seemingly  ended  due to  bad knees  and
 Beasley's  looked to be over thanks to poor decisions, but the Heat are giving
 them a chance.
 
 The  two  teams have been  evenly matched the  last seasons, going 4-4 against
 each  other. Chicago  did win in Miami on  Jan. 4 and the two sides won't meet
 again until Dec. 5 in the Windy City.
 
 
 10/29 10:31:49 ET