Heat Season Opener: Miami Heat vs Memphis Grizzlies
The glory days might be over for the Miami Heat – at least for now. LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade aren’t hitting the court to carry the team to another NBA championship. But that doesn’t mean fans shouldn’t be excited about grabbing Heat tickets for the upcoming season. Despite missing the playoffs last season, the Heat are just one year removed from their last division title. There's plenty of reason to have hope for a bounce-back season, starting with the Miami Heat season opener on October 23 against the Memphis Grizzlies. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about the Miami Heat season opener and beyond.
Who’s Suiting Up?
The lineup for the Miami Heat season opener will look a little different than it did a year ago, given that three starters from last year’s opening night lineup are no longer with the team. Rodney McGruder was released after last season, while Josh Richardson and Hassan Whiteside were both a part of the four-team trade that sent Jimmy Butler to Miami. Butler, of course, will be in the starting lineup for the Miami Heat season opener and will undoubtedly be Miami’s star player this season.
The starting backcourt for the Heat this year figures to be Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters. Dragic, the team's starting point guard, is likely to be the only holdover from last season’s starting lineup. The native of Slovenia is heading into his sixth season with the Heat and is hoping to quickly rebound after missing much of last season with a knee injury. Waiters, meanwhile, didn’t make his debut last season until January due to injury. When healthy, he can be a dynamic scorer and a nice complement to Butler.
Joining Butler in the frontcourt will be James Johnson and Bam Adebayo. Johnson was also sidelined at the start of last season due to injury. Meanwhile, Adebayo started to come along last year during his second pro season. He appears ready to take over as the team’s starting center, providing a strong presence on the defensive end of the court.
Heat fans can also expect to see various other players coming off the bench in the season opener, including Kelly Olynyk, Derrick Jones, Justice Winslow, and free-agent addition Meyers Leonard. Rookies KZ Okpala and Tyler Herro will also be players to watch early in the season to see if they can crack the rotation.
Know Thy Opponent
The Heat's opening night matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies is bound to be a good one. Memphis finished 16 games under .500 last season and is in the midst of a rebuild. This makes the Miami Heat season opener a winnable game for them. However, the Grizzlies are also an intriguing team, as they have a roster that’s loaded with young, promising talent. Opening night in Miami will be the pro debut of Ja Morant, who was the second overall pick in this year’s draft.
The Memphis lineup also includes Jaren Jackson, who was the fourth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke are also a pair of recent draft picks the Grizzlies are hoping can contribute this year. Of course, the Memphis roster features established veterans like Jonas Valančiūnas and Andre Iguodala who should help make for a compelling game on opening night in Miami.
The fun is just beginning for the Heat when they face the Grizzlies in the season opener. There will be plenty of other marquee games on Miami’s schedule throughout the rest of the season. In early November, the Heat will play host to the Houston Rockets, a team that many people view as a championship contender. In late November, they play host to the Golden State Warriors, another high profile team. In between, Heat fans will get their first look at Zion Williamson, the top overall pick in this year’s draft, as he and the New Orleans Pelicans visit South Beach for the only time this season.
Miami will close out a four-game homestand in the middle of December by welcoming LeBron James back to town as the Heat host the Los Angeles Lakers. A couple of weeks later, Josh Richardson will make his return to Miami along with upstart 76ers. Richardson was always a fan favorite among Heat fans, so he should receive a warm reception, even if Philadelphia brings a loaded roster that will make for a tough matchup for Miami. The same can be said of the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors, who pays a visit to the Heat on January 2 to help kick off the new year.
The Raptors will visit Miami again to close out the regular season on April 14. Many believe this could be the final game of longtime Heat forward Udonis Haslem. The 39-year-old Haslem joined the Heat in 2003 and has been in Miami ever since. This will be his 17th season with the Heat. He’s faded into the background in recent years, starting just one game over the past four seasons. But he was a key contributor on three championship teams with the Heat. If this is indeed the end of Haslem’s career, his final home game is sure to be something special for Heat fans to witness.