The Dallas Mavericks open the season against the Miami Heat and the Mavs will raise their first championship banner in franchise history.
In a rematch of last season's championship round, Dallas will be looking to prove that the postseason success was no fluke, while the Heat will be adamant to show that this group is the real deal.
Miami will have all eyes firmly fixated on their play once again throughout all 66 regular season games as well as the playoffs, and the team knows the intense pressure on their shoulders to deliver.
Additions for Heat: Signed SF Shane Battier, C Eddy Curry; Re-signed PG Mario Chalmers, SF James Jones, PF Juwan Howard
Subtractions for Heat: C Jamaal Magloire (Raptors)
Additions for Mavericks: Traded for F Lamar Odom; signed SG Vince Carter, G Delonte West, F Brandan Wright, F/C Sean Williams; Re-signed F Brian Cardinal
Subtractions for Mavericks: PG J.J. Barea (Timberwolves), G/F Caron Butler (Clippers), C Tyson Chandler (Knicks); Traded G/F Corey Brewer, SG Rudy Fernandez
Battle: Mario Chalmers vs. Jason Kidd
It's extremely possible that neither starter finishes out the game in the fourth quarter, but these two will square off once again when the jump ball is thrown in the air.
Neither Kidd nor Chalmers plays a very significant role for their respective teams, but with all of the attention focused elsewhere on other positions, either could very well emerge as an x-factor in a tight game.
Battle: Vince Carter vs. Dwyane Wade
Carter might be the starter in name only here, as the team has sixth man extraordinaire in Jason Terry as well as Delonte West to serve behind him at the position off the bench.
No matter who is lined up against Wade, it won't really matter, as his elite combination of speed and balance will allow him to downright dominate throughout the evening.
Battle: Shawn Marion vs. LeBron James
Marion and his new blond hair will take on the tough task of attempting to slow down LeBron James, and the latter is a man on a mission following an offseason where he was at the butt of jokes everywhere.
Marion will have some help this year with Lamar Odom helping him out along the front line, and while Odom's length will certainly help against James, it's going to take a very strong effort to prevent James from having a fantastic regular-season opener.
Battle: Dirk Nowitzki vs. Chris Bosh
Bosh had a ridiculously tough time attempting to defend Nowitzki in the Finals last season, and that's not something that's likely to change despite the Heat big man adding some more bulk to his frame during the offseason.
Nowitzki's game is rather unorthodox, and Bosh is going to have to force him outside with a consistent jumper to draw him out from beneath the basket and help open up some space for Wade and James to drive to the hole.
Battle: Brendan Haywood vs. Joel Anthony
This is undoubtedly the least appealing matchup of anyone who serves in the starting five, and it's a far cry from the Tyson Chandler (now with the Knicks) vs. Eddy Curry matchup some were hoping to see.
Haywood and Anthony will each be looking to assert himself as a legitimate option in the middle for their respective clubs despite fans clamoring for both teams to upgrade.
Each will have to serve as an anchor in the middle as the rosters are currently constructed.
It's not the same Dallas roster that won a championship last season, but the reconstructed crew is one that boasts an impressive amount of depth.
That will be extremely important in a shortened season without the benefit of a full training camp, and several will be looking to see how Lamar Odom fits into the picture with his new crew.
With fellow newcomers Delonte West, Vince Carter and Sean Williams helping to bolster the bench, the Mavericks can find a different route to similar success with a good start.
The picture is telling for this prediction.
It might be time for the Mavericks to raise the banner, but this is about the Heat coming out and putting an emphatic stop to the criticisms and insinuations regarding the shortcomings of the team.
Miami upgraded its already strong perimeter defense with the addition of Shane Battier, and his presence allows coach Erik Spoelstra to roll out some lineups that the opposition will have a tough time defending.
The heat in Texas can be sweltering, even if it is on Christmas Day.
Prediction: Miami 98, Dallas 87