MIAMI _ Less doubt. Less drama. Less venom. Less crisis. Less volume. Less media. Less, "Fire Spoelstra." Less 'Bumpgate' and 'Crygate.' Less unknown. Less daily analysis and pop psychology.
But higher stakes.
More demand to answer some lingering questions and be on top when the final game plays out, sometime in June, somewhere across America.
The Heat open their regular season Sunday, and Chris Bosh delivered the definitive line about what the next belated, compacted and abbreviated 66 games will mean: "No matter what happens, we know in our mind we'll get through it because we were right there to win it in June."
A year ago, the Heat did the impossible by making every NBA regular-season game a funhouse walk. Spoelstra was fired and Bosh traded in November. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade couldn't work together in December. Remember the angst when they couldn't beat the Bulls or Celtics through March?
There will be less of that this year. Less hate. Less noise. If they open with two losses to Dallas and Boston, is anyone really shouting on national television how Spo must go or asking if LeBron can exist with Wade?
The Heat becomes an abnormally normal contender this year. Forty-five wins? Fifty-five? Are you getting worked up either way?
First seed in the East? Or maybe second, if injury and surprise conspire? Is anyone really caught up in that?
A year ago at the season's start, the debates were if the Heat could hit 70 wins and would they ever lose two in a row. One game at Boston later, the conclusion was it would never work.
Don't you miss that every-night overkill?
"It's championship or bust now," Bosh said.
That matter doesn't change. It's just that every step taken along the way won't be measured and mic'd up. There will be drama, sure. Who throws the first December haymaker, Charles Barkley or Shaquille O'Neal?
There are storylines that matter. They're pretty much the same ones they left the stage with, disappearing the last three games of the NBA Finals against this same Dallas team in LeBron's case.
Nothing over the next 66 games can change that mystery. It will be Topic A for this team from opening tip-off on Sunday until the season ends vs. the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA Finals (at least as I strangely see it).
There's no reason to think the Heat isn't reaching there again. Boston and Chicago didn't do enough to suggest the Heat's playoff wins in six games will change. New York added some good pieces. But enough?
The Heat has added to its roster, too. Udonis Haslem is healthy. Mike Miller might be again. Shane Battier has a developed portfolio to know he brings defense, smarts, versatility and decent three-point shooting.
The intrigue is at the positions that cost the Heat a championship last year. Tyson Chandler, now a Knick, ate up the Heat inside. Can Eddy Curry change that? He's a no-risk-possible-reward play. He might be the missing piece. He might be a lazy tub of goo. Who knows?
Dallas also exposed the Heat's limited perimeter game by playing three talented guards. Mario Chalmers still might be a nervous tic just walking on the Dallas court until he finds J.J. Barea isn't there anymore.
The world has changed from June. The Dallas roster shows that with no Chandler, no Barea but old friend Lamar Odom. But what's really changed about the Heat is you can settle in, analyze the development in 10-game segments like any regular season and wait until the playoffs.
A year ago, the Heat played 82 regular-season games with more drama and constant volume than any one game the Dolphins, Marlins or Panthers played. There's never been a regular-season like it in sports.
This year, Kris Humphries already has replaced LeBron as one poll's most-hated player.
The drama for the Heat starts after 66 games.