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Heat open season with soft schedule

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MIAMI -- The Miami Heat are a veteran team that doesn't need much time to come together. But they'll get it.

The NBA schedule was released Tuesday, and the two-time defending champions have a soft beginning to the season.

The team opens Oct. 29 at home to Chicago with star guard Derrick Rose returning from a year-long knee injury in a game that will be broadcast by TNT and will feature retiring NBA commissioner David Stern handing out championship rings for the final time. They also play Nov. 1 at retooled Brooklyn and Nov. 7 at home against the Los Angeles Clippers.

But 11 of Miami's first 18 games are at home and just five of those first 18 are against teams that had winning records last season. One of the five is against Boston, which could be dreadful since the Celtics traded stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets.

When one takes into account Miami's first 21 games, just six are against teams that had winning marks last year.

But many say the NBA season doesn't really get going until Christmas. So perhaps it's good the great majority of Miami's marquee games are Dec. 25 and beyond.

Of course, we'll see if the Heat's Christmas Day game at the Los Angeles Lakers (ABC) is really a marquee outing. The Lakers weren't anything special last season. The team lost Dwight Howard as a free agent to Houston, and Kobe Bryant is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. It will be the ninth time in the past 10 years Miami has played on Dec. 25.

The Heat won their second straight title last June by defeating San Antonio in the NBA Finals in seven games. Their rematch games with the Spurs will be Jan. 26 at home (ABC) and March 6 at San Antonio (TNT).

Here are some other schedule tidbits for the Heat, who close the 82-game season April 16 at home to Philadelphia:

-- The Heat will have 70 games broadcast on Sun Sports and will make 25 national television appearances, excluding NBA TV. That includes 10 games on ESPN, nine on TNT and six on ABC.

-- As usual, the Heat will play each West team home and away and will have two home games and two road games with 10 East teams. The four East teams the Heat play just three times are Boston and Milwaukee (both twice at home and once on the road) and Cleveland and Philadelphia (both twice on the road and once at home).

-- After playing Indiana just three times in the 2012-13 regular season, the Heat have the Pacers four times. The games are Dec. 11 and March 26 (ESPN) at Indiana and Dec. 18 (ESPN) and April 11 at home. The Heat defeated the Pacers in seven games in last season's Eastern Conference finals.

-- Miami defeated Oklahoma City to win the 2012 Finals. The Heat face the Thunder on Jan. 29 at home (ESPN) and Feb. 20 at Oklahoma City (TNT).

-- Miami's longest homestand will be five games, having one Dec. 14-23 and March 31-April 8. The longest road stretch will be six games, occurring Jan. 9-20 and Feb. 5-20 (with the All-Star break in the middle).

-- The Heat have 17 back-to-back situations.

-- Guard Mike Miller, who was waived by the Heat last month as part of the NBA's amnesty rule and signed by Memphis, is scheduled March 21 to make his only return trip to Miami.

-- Greg Oden, who soon will sign with the Heat as a free agent, was with Portland from 2007-12, although he hasn't played an NBA game since December 2009. He is scheduled to return Dec. 28 to Portland.

-- As champions, the Heat didn't visit the White House last season around a game at Washington. But if President Obama's schedule is open, they could visit this season around a Jan. 15 or April 14 trip to Washington.

Chris Tomasson can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @christomasson.

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