- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Miami Heat will receive their rings and raise a championship banner before tipping off the 2012-13 season against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night. But don't tell Celtics coach Doc Rivers that Miami is opening its title defense against Boston that night.
"I never believed that anybody is ever defending a title, because that was last year," Rivers said before Boston's offday workout at AmericanAirlines Arena on Monday. "They don’t own the trophy this year. That’s what I tell our guys: Miami is defending nothing. They won the title last year. You don’t give your trophy back -- that’s in boxing, where you get the belt back, that’s defending the title. In the NBA, you win a new title.
"We’re trying to win a new title, and they’re trying to win a new title. But they don’t have this year’s trophy, so they are not defending it. That’s the way we look at it. And that’s the way we tried to look at it [after Boston's 2008 title victory]."
The Celtics were in business mode again Monday, particularly while being back in the building where their own title hopes were dashed four months ago in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Facing a barrage of questions about old friend Ray Allen, Boston players did their best to keep the focus on the opener.
"I’m here to play the game and get the hell up out of here," barked Kevin Garnett when asked about Allen. "Period, point blank."
When a follow-up question asked if he would talk to Allen, Garnett ended the brief confab by saying, "Y’all be safe down here in Miami. It’s flooding, make sure you in the high SUVs."
Rondo downplayed the first matchup against Allen, but not without a tiny jab.
"We're two different positions. I'm sure I’ll probably chase Ray around some screens," said Rondo. "But I dont’ think he’ll be [guarding] me."
Pressed on facing Allen, Rondo added: "I’ve played against former teammates before. I played against [Kendrick Perkins], played against Eddie House. He's not the first one I played against."
Paul Pierce said he hadn't talked to Allen, but stressed that the focus of Tuesday's game wouldn't be on a single player. Pierce does like opening up against the team that knocked Boston out last season.
"We’re excited, it’s the start of the season, and this is a team we know we’re going to have to go through in order for us to get to our goals," said Pierce. "Two Eastern Conference rivals. I’m excited about our team and the new guys we have. It’s going to be interesting to see how we match up with [the Heat] in a new season."