Bulls prepare for rematch with Heat
"Last year is last year," Rose said after Friday night's 107-100 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. "We're not trying to think about that. We know this is a new year. They have a great team, and it's definitely going to be a battle out there."
Rose apparently doesn't want anyone to dwell on the Heat's beating the Bulls 4-1 in the Eastern Conference finals last season.
While Rose tried to play down the rivalry, Bulls center Joakim Noah admitted that facing the Heat is not like most other games. It was Noah who famously called the Heat "Hollywood as hell" after Game 5 last season.
"It's definitely not another game," Noah said. "It's definitely not another game."
Noah stopped himself before saying something he thought might pump up the rivalry even more, despite prodding from reporters.
"It's just not another game," he said. "That's really all I have to say about that."
Each game of last season's Eastern Conference finals was a battle. Neither team wanted to give an inch, and both teams played solid defense throughout the series.
Noah and his teammates feel they have to prove themselves against the team that beat them last season. While some players tried to downplay the significance, it was obvious from other players' reactions that the game against the Heat will be more intense than usual.
"It should be a great game," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said with a wink. "If you've got tickets, we'll see you down there."
The Heat contest marks the start of a nine-game road trip for the Bulls. The team has decided to split the trip in half because the fifth game is in Milwaukee. After Thursday night's game against the New York Knicks, the Bulls will fly back to Chicago and then take a bus up to play the Bucks.
Much of the strain will be the road trip's mental grind.
"We're taking it one game at a time," Rose said. "We know that it's going to be very hard. We know that we're going to have to play together. We're down some players, so we've just got to execute while we're out there and play hard and compete every time we step onto the court."
It all starts in Miami, though, and each player in the Bulls' locker room is looking forward to the showdown Sunday. Boozer, who has an offseason home in Miami, says he's been bombarded by ticket requests from friends and family.
"I've got like 26 [people] coming," Boozer said. "So I don't got no more [tickets], but you can watch it on TV."
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.