Derrick Rose is back. The Heat will get their championship rings for a second straight year. And if you were looking for a better storyline on opening night, there isn't one.
"It's the start to the season. It's a big game," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said after a recent practice. "It's one of those games where old memories come back fast."
And those memories aren't fond ones, especially when it comes to the playoffs.
In 2011, Rose led the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals, and they took Game 1 from Miami after sweeping the regular-season series. But Chicago would not win another game as Miami advanced to the NBA Finals.
Then there was last season's second-round matchup, filled with memorable moments like Nate Robinson —busted lip and all after being tackled by LeBron James—willing the shorthanded Bulls to victory in Game 1. Or Nazr Mohammed shoving James to the ground in Game 3.
But that would be it for Bulls highlights, as again Miami advanced in five games and went on to win championship No. 2.
Now with Rose—who called the Heat the Bulls' only true rival—back at point guard, this year's Bulls are determined not to lose to Miami when it matters most.
"Every time you play against Miami, it's a statement [game]," said Joakim Noah, who is well known for his animosity toward the Heat. "It's the beginning of our season. We're a hungry group, but I've been waiting for this game for a long time. It's one of 82, but we know every time we play against Miami, it's important."
So what will it be like for the Bulls to be in the building while Miami receives its 2013 championship bling?
"That's their moment," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We'll be in the locker room,"
"It's tough. You've got to go through the whole ceremony," Luol Deng said. "It's a great day for them. The fans are loud, excited. Mentally, you just have to be ready. It takes forever for the game to get started. You just have to stay ready in the locker room."
What does Noah think about having to be there when the Heat get their hardware?
"I don't want to talk about that," he said.
Which says plenty about this rivalry.
Bryan Crawford is a RedEye special contributor.
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