The 2012-13 NBA season gets underway on Tuesday night, and it wastes no time in giving fans a high-caliber matchup. In an Eastern Conference Final rematch, the Boston Celtics travel to Miami to take on the defending champion Heat.
The first game of the year, no matter how much hype surrounds it, carries only very minor implications for the season as a whole. Still, two of the NBA's most intriguing teams are involved in this game, and the storylines it features will remain relevant all year long.
Here is a look at what Tuesday night's season opener means for both Boston and Miami.
Miami Heat: Sweet, Sweet Revenge
Ever since LeBron James took his talent to South Beach and joined the Heat in 2010, both have faced heavy criticism. There were those that said that since James was never able to beat the Celtics in the postseason in Cleveland, he sold out for Miami. Others proclaimed that despite the team's talented core of James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, the Heat lacked the chemistry necessary to win an NBA title.
James and the Heat proved everyone wrong in June, knocking the Celtics out of the playoffs for the second straight year and then defeating the Thunder to win the NBA championship. The question now is not whether the Heat can win an NBA title, but how many.
On Tuesday, Miami will raise its 2012 championship banner—right in the Celtics' faces. James gets revenge on the team he was unable to beat for so long, and Miami gets revenge on everyone who said it could never win it all.
Miami is the defending champion, and with a nearly identical roster returning this season, it has to be the favorite to do it again. In fact, the only major change is the addition of Ray Allen, which just adds salt to the Celtics' wounds.
After two seasons of doubters questioning whether the Heat could ever find the right formula with the talent they have, they now must simply continue to do what worked for them last year. The season opener will be a celebration for Miami and a fun way to begin a new season—nothing more.
Boston Celtics: Turning the Page
With Allen out of Boston, the Big Three that brought the Celtics a championship in 2007-08 is officially broken up. Change has taken place around the core of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, and a very different Celtics team will take the floor on Tuesday night.
Most of that change has been very good, however, adding skill and amazing depth to the roster. There is youthful potential in the likes of Jared Sullinger, Kris Joseph and Fab Melo, excitement in re-signings such as Garnett, Brandon Bass and Jeff Green and encouragement in acquisitions such as Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa.
The busy Celtics offseason has led some to call this year's team the most talented in recent memory, possibly even challenging the championship squad of five years ago.
The irony, however, is that now it is the Celtics who must figure out how to make their new team gel. The talent is there, but the experience of playing together is not. Tuesday's season opener will be the first real look at the modified Boston squad and will indicate how much work will need to be done over the course of the season for the Celtics to challenge the NBA's best—teams like Miami.
Again, the overall impact of the first game of an NBA season is trivial. But in terms of showing fans what they can expect from their team this year, Tuesday's matchup is much bigger for Boston than it is for Miami.
The Heat know they are a top championship contender in 2012-13. Playing them in the first game of the season will help the Celtics determine if they're a top contender, too.