With the way the Miami Heat's assistant coaches, armed with handheld football pads, mauled LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as they drove into the lane at the end of Monday's practice, one might think the star trio were actually running backs preparing for a big game. Instead, the Heat were just preparing for a physical battle on the court in Tuesday's season opener against the Chicago Bulls. After the Heat staff brought out the football pads to practice for the first time this preseason, the message is clear. "We don't like them, they don't like us," James said of the Bulls after the drill. "It's not unheard of. We all know how it is." Was it a coincidence that they busted out the football gear before facing Tom Thibodeau's famed defense in Chicago? "No, not at all," Bosh said after the 20-minute drill. "It's all planned. We know they're big, physical and we know we have to finish." The Heat expect the Bulls to be extra motivated Tuesday, and not just because it marks point guard Derrick Rose's first game back since suffering a torn ACL in April 2012. The Heat will also be raising their 2012-13 championship banner and getting their rings before the game, and it's not lost them that they ended the Bulls' season in the Eastern Conference semifinals just five months ago. "It don't matter who it is," James said of the opponent for the opener. "But we like the fact that it's the Bulls." The Bulls have been here before. After the Heat won the title in 2006, the Bulls were in Miami for opening night and the banner raising ceremony. Chicago blasted Miami 108-66. Only Udonis Haslem and Wade remain from that team, while Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich are the only Bulls who were around then.
LeBron James eager to face Bulls
ESPN | Oct 29