Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Sports

Celtics-Heat rematch opens season

MIAMI — LeBron James is finally getting his championship ring tonight.

Somehow, that seems like an ancillary element to opening night in Miami, one of three games. The Magic opens Friday against the Nuggets.

Tonight it's Boston vs. Miami, a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference final, won by the Heat in seven games. It's Ray Allen vs. the Celtics for the first time since he left after five seasons to join a Boston rival. And the Heat will celebrate last season's NBA championship with a pregame ring-and-banner ceremony.

"We'll honor and respect what we were able to accomplish before the game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

After that? All business.

The Heat and Celtics practiced simultaneously Monday in Miami, because Boston arrived a day ahead of schedule to avoid Hurricane Sandy. And both preached the same mantra — it's a big game, but win or lose, both teams will still have 81 games left to go in the regular season when they wake up Wednesday.

"If we win, do we get a trophy? We get one win and that's it," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "And if we lose, which we don't want to do, we get one loss and it doesn't mean we still can't win it. But at the end of the day, we're all human. … These games, they don't really have more meaning, but they do have more meaning."

It comes as no surprise to either side that the schedule-makers sent Boston to Miami for ring night.

"Every time there's something big going on," Heat forward Chris Bosh said, "we're playing the Celtics."

There has been a slew of upgrades at the arena over the summer — slightly different looks here and there, a new nightclub and restaurant, more concessions and bars. Heat fans can buy championship-ring-related merchandise, designed in the same manner as the players' title jewelry.

Miami kept its championship rotation intact, and added Allen and former Magic swingman Rashard Lewis.

"I'm excited for these guys, having spent time around them over the last two, three months, getting to know them and their families," Allen said. "I'm happy for them that they won, but at the same time, they beat me and put us out. I understand the emotions that Boston will feel, watching the whole ceremony. Once it's over with, it's business as usual."

Boston figures to be better as well. Jason Terry now comes off the bench, there's an influx of youth in the rotation, Jeff Green is back after heart surgery, and Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are loaded up for another championship push.

"It's just another basketball game," Rondo said.

Not even he probably believes that. The rivalry and the Allen reunion weighs heavily on both sides. Neither Garnett nor Pierce has spoken to their former shooting guard since he signed with Miami.

"We're not going to make this into a Ray Allen or Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rondo thing," Pierce said. "Everything's that happened has already happened. He's here. He's happy to be here. We wish him the best for his family and the situation, but I'm more focused on the Boston Celtics."

mavericks-Lakers: Los Angeles guard Kobe Bryant sat out Monday while his teammates went through a lengthy workout ahead of tonight's opener against Dallas, the first of four games in six days. Bryant (sore right foot) will be a gametime decision. Meanwhile, the Mavericks waived guard Delonte West after suspending him twice in less than two weeks for conduct detrimental to the team. The move created a roster spot for center Eddy Curry, who was picked up last week and could start tonight because of an injury to Chris Kaman.

Thunder: Oklahoma City picked up Reggie Jackson's option, keeping the guard under contract through 2013-14. He averaged 3.1 points and 1.6 assists in 45 games as a rookie last season.

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