Heat get Bulls for opener, Super Bowl trip to NY

The Miami Heat are going to the Super Bowl. Well, at least Super
Bowl weekend.

Among the favorite moments for Heat players on their way to a
second straight NBA championship last season was staying in Toronto
for a few unplanned hours after a game against the Raptors so the
team could throw itself a Super Bowl watch party. The Heat won that
day to start what became a 27-game winning streak, the
second-longest in NBA history.

And this year, the Heat will get a better look at Super Bowl
hoopla.

The league is sending Miami to Madison Square Garden on Feb. 1 –
one night before the NFL championship game at the nearby stadium
that the New York Giants and Jets call home – for a game that is
certain to be a star-studded affair, and carries a rare 8:30 p.m.
local time start.

It’s one of the clear highlights on this coming season’s
schedule, released by the league Tuesday night.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of last
season’s championship club will get their latest rings on Oct. 29,
shortly before the Heat start the year against the Bulls. That game
also figures to be Derrick Rose’s return from an April 2012 knee
injury that kept him sidelined for the entirety of last season –
including Miami’s five-game victory over Chicago in the Eastern
Conference semifinals.

”You care a little bit about what the schedule says, like where
you’ll be for the holidays and making sure that your family is
there around you,” Heat guard Mario Chalmers said. ”Going to LA
on Christmas this time, that’s a little weird … but you just show
up and play.”

It’s the first time since 2008 that the league’s reigning
champion will be sent on the road for Christmas. Miami will play on
Dec. 25 at the Los Angeles Lakers, who are waiting to see how
quickly Bryant can return from the Achilles’ tear he endured in
April.

The Heat being on the road for both Thanksgiving – a day
sandwiched between games at Cleveland and Toronto – and at Los
Angeles for Christmas didn’t seem to sit well with Heat forward
Shane Battier.

”The schedule I got said that we are on the road for Xmas and
Turkey Day,” Battier wrote on Twitter. ”I think I received a bad
copy.”

Other key matchups and notes from the Heat schedule:

– The NBA Finals rematches with San Antonio, at home on Jan. 26
and at the Spurs on March 6.

– Miami gets its first look at the Brooklyn Nets, who added Paul
Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry among others to their roster
this summer, in game No. 3 of the Heat season. The Heat are at the
Nets on Nov. 1, which is Brooklyn’s home opener.

– Mike Miller’s return to Miami will be March 21. The former
Heat guard was designated this summer as the team’s amnesty player,
and signed a deal to return to the Grizzlies not long after
clearing waivers. It’s still unknown if Miller will have to wait
until March 21 to get his championship ring, or if he could be
presented with it earlier. (The Grizzlies are off on the night
Miami will hand out the rings to open the year.)

– Miami and Eastern Conference finalist Indiana will play four
times, starting with a game in Indianapolis on Dec. 10. The teams
will play twice in the final three weeks of the season.

– James’ two trips back to his former Cleveland home are Nov. 27
and March 18.

– Greg Oden’s return to Portland would be Dec. 28. The Heat are
expected to complete the signing of the former No. 1 overall pick
as early as Wednesday.

– Miami has a pair of six-game road trips, and a pair of
five-game homestands. The Heat play nine of their first 14 games at
home, then seven of their final 10 games at home as well.

– The schedule includes 17 sets of back-to-back games, five in
March – a month where the Heat play 18 games in 31 days.