The 2014-15 NBA season starts tonight for the Miami Heat as they host the Washington Wizards at American Airlines Arena. It marks the beginning of the post-LeBron James era for Miami and puts more focus on center Chris Bosh after signing a five year $118 million contract to stay with the Heat in the offseason. Before the teams tip off here are four questions to ask about the Heat:
1.) Will the Toronto Raptors Bosh make a return this season?
With James gone Miami has decided to make Bosh their first option on offense. It’s a role that Bosh is not unaccustomed to as he was the centerpiece for the Raptors in his first seven seasons in the NBA. The first thought when the Heat made this move was if Bosh was capable of fully going back to being that main piece after spending the past four season being the third option on most nights. Bosh has grown his game in that time on both ends of the floor but can that growth be adjusted now that James is no longer there as a playmaker? Tonight will be the first big test of that.
2.) What will be the atmosphere at home in this new era?
It’s no question that there was great excitement when the Heat started their season the past four years. Since James left in the offseason the questions was whether the city of Miami would be melancholy and bring that sentiment to the arena. What has happened in that time has a closing of the ranks. Heat fans have embraced team president Pat Riley and guard Dwyane Wade more than ever. The team has noticed this trend and launched a campaign dubbed ‘Heat Nation’ to rally the fans. The Heat will also debut a short film with the same name in the arena before tipoff. How will Miami’s crowd react to this new era? We’ll see.
3.) Can tonight be considered a full evaluation of the Heat?
Even though this is the first game of the season neither the Heat or Wizards will be at full strength. For Miami forward Josh McRoberts, who was signed in the offseason, will sit out tonight due to a toe injury. The injury has caused McRoberts to also miss the entire preseason. The Heat are counting on McRoberts to stretch the floor and to utilize his passing ability. For Washington two main pieces are sitting out tonight. Forward/center Nene is serving a suspension for a preseason altercation with the Chicago Bulls and guard Bradley Beal is out with an injury.
With the Wizards missing two key players it will be difficult to gauge the performances of both Bosh and particularly Wade. McRoberts being out further depletes a small frontcourt and takes away a three-point shooter, another area the Heat are short on this season.
4.) Will Norris Cole do well in the starting lineup?
A few days ago Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra named guard Cole as his starting point guard replacing Mario Chalmers. The reasons for the move are understandable. Having Chalmers on the bench adds an instant offense to the second unit that is needed. Moving Cole to be a starter also takes away an energy player from the bench. Miami hopes that rookie forward James Ennis will fill that role as the season goes on. Cole has shown that he’s not scared of the moment since his debut but has shown inconsistency throughout his four years in the NBA. Can Cole be considered a consensus starting point guard let alone a quality starter? Going up against a player like John Wall will be good way to start answering that question.