ESPN.com is devoting additional coverage to Miami through its "Heat Index" page, and Commissioner David Stern expects the Heat to be playing before full houses on the road. And if they are the bad guys, so be it, since Stern said recently somebody has to be.
"You know, I grew up in 1985 as commissioner when the Celtics had four or five Hall of Fame players and the Lakers had the same," Stern said. "There is always, and if you lived outside of L.A., the Lakers were the bad guys, or if you lived outside of Boston, the Celtics were the bad guys."
Some of the Heat buzz is downright comical.
The Philadelphia 76ers announced Saturday that they would hold a "Beat The Heat" pep rally Monday, featuring the entire team roster — and even Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, not to mention an "interactive fire safety demonstration." The team rode through part of Philadelphia in a fire truck, a clear nod to the Heat's flaming basketball logo.
Stern even made a lighthearted reference to it all over the weekend, saying a number of teams have told him it's "premature" to mail the championship trophy to Miami already.
James will be greeted like a Lakers player tonight in Boston when he makes his official Heat debut. He may have lost his chance to be as beloved as Michael Jordan, but he's got a better chance to match him in championships. And as Jordan knows, it's about winning titles, not popularity contests.
"I'm pretty sure when we started winning, Detroit didn't like us, I'm pretty sure New York didn't like us, Cleveland didn't like us," Jordan said. "So if Miami decides to win, I'm pretty sure whoever felt like that move was not something that was well-liked are not going to support the Miami Heat. So to me, they would be champions, I could care less. They won, they beat everyone in the league, they're the champions — if they win."
Maybe all the hatred will fuel the Heat to do just that.
"You know, just let this team become what it can become or what it can't. Just let it happen," team president Pat Riley said. "And everybody out there is just trying to do something right now to raise the ante on us. And I think the more you raise the ante on a team, especially these guys, and how they talk about it, I think you might even see something even more special. So sometimes silence is better than a lot of noise, from outside."
In tonight's other two regular-season openers, Phoenix visits Portland and the defending NBA champion Lakers host Houston.
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