After a month marked by way too many injuries and then livened up by that thunderbolt of a trade over the weekend, it's almost here.
A full 82-game, lockout-proof season starts for real Tuesday with a tasty TNT doubleheader featuring three of the top four teams in these rankings, headlined by No. 4 Boston's visit to No. 1 Miami, where the Heat will collect their championship rings and open their title defense against Ray Allen's old team.
Depressing as it is to see the likes of Andrew Bynum, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love, Amar'e Stoudemire and John Wall all sidelined -- and stunning as it was to see Oklahoma City ship James Harden to Houston late Saturday night -- on-court dealings are about to commandeer the spotlight. Word of warning: Allen's shot has been a touch wayward this month and Rashard Lewis is still adjusting to his new surroundings, but LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all looked quite good during the preseason. Which only cements the Heat as an overwhelming No. 1 here as we get started.