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Five things to know about the NBA season

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Five things to know about the NBA season, which starts with three games Tuesday night:

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STILL THE CHAMPS: New year, same story. The Miami Heat enter this season as they did the last, as champions of the NBA. Reigning MVP LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are trying to get the Heat to their fourth straight appearance in the NBA Finals, something that only the Lakers and Celtics of old were able to accomplish. While legacies about those players and this Heat run are still being written, winning another title this season would solidify this team as one of the NBA's all-time clubs.

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HE'S BACK: Derrick Rose, finally, is back. It took 18 months (forgetting a few preseason games) for the Chicago Bulls star to make his return to the NBA, after tearing up his knee in a playoff game in April 2012. The Bulls have been a title contender with Rose in the past; there's no reason to think that they won't be one again now that he's on the court again. The Eastern Conference saw plenty of offseason movement, but it could very easily turn out that the most notable development is Rose coming back.

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HE'S NOT BACK. YET: Out West, Kobe Bryant is still working his way back from a torn Achilles' in last season's playoffs. The Los Angeles Lakers almost certainly won't go far without Bryant, but with him, it would be hard to say that they aren't playoff-worthy even in a typically loaded-up Western Conference. Bryant remains considered by his peers as one of the league's best players, and he hasn't hidden his disdain over suggestions that the Lakers' run of relevance, at least for now, is over.

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FAREWELL, COMMISH: David Stern will hand out his last championship rings on Tuesday night in Miami, when he awards the jewelry that the team had designed for the special night to Pat Riley, Micky Arison, Erik Spoelstra and the rest of the Heat staff and players. Stern leaves early next year and turns the reins of the league over to longtime deputy Adam Silver. Under Stern, who will have served a 30-year term as commissioner, the league went from fledgling to simply a business giant.

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THINGS TO WATCH: Will Memphis or Golden State go from looking like they're ready to contend and, you know, actually contend for the NBA title? Will Dwight Howard realize his potential in Houston? Can San Antonio make one more run at winning it all? Who will emerge as the surprise team, if anyone? Will teams tank to enhance their chances of drafting presumed 2014 No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins next June? Will the grand experiment in Brooklyn of taking an aging team and adding longtime stars while paying an enormous luxury tax work out? And can anyone dethrone Miami? We'll know more when the playoffs start, exactly 1,230 games from now.

Tagged: Bulls, Lakers, Heat, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose

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