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MIAMI (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – There is a lot of optimism surrounding the Miami Heat this season.
The Heat fell all the way out of the playoffs in the first year of the post-LeBron James era but are ready to get right back into the race.
The Heat will begin that process when they host the Charlotte Hornets in the 2015-16 opener on Wednesday.
Miami made plenty of moves last season in an effort to make up for the loss of James but injuries to Chris Bosh and Luol Deng ultimately contributed to the team plummeting to 10th place in the Eastern Conference and out of the playoffs last spring.
The Heat have Bosh (blood clots) back heathy and managed to get Deng, Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic back under contract, giving them arguably the strongest starting five in the East outside of James-led Cleveland.
The Hornets finished four games behind Miami in 11th place in the East and added some veteran pieces like small forward Nicolas Batum and power forwards Spencer Hawes and Tyler Hansbrough in an effort to add depth to the frontcourt.
Charlotte needs some luck with health as well, specifically in regards to point guard Kemba Walker and center Al Jefferson, who combined to miss 37 games last season.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN Southeast (Charlotte), Sun Sports (Miami)
ABOUT THE HORNETS (2014-15: 33-49): Batum and fellow free agent Jeremy Lin seemed to fit in nicely in the preseason, which takes some of the sting out of losing swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
The Kentucky product, who averaged 10.9 points and 7.6 rebounds in 2014-15, was injured in the preseason and underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum that could cost him the entire season.
“One of the things we were able to do over the offseason is improve our depth, so we have some guys who I feel are ready to emerge,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford told reporters. “I still feel really good about our team.”
ABOUT THE HEAT (2014-15: 37-45): The disappointing 2014-15 season allowed Miami to drift high enough in the draft order to grab Duke product Justise Winslow in June, and the guard joins Gerald Green and Amar’e Stoudemire in a revamped reserve unit.
“It’s a new group, new players, but they’ve connected pretty quickly and that’s on and off the court,” Heat coach Erik Spolestra told reporters. “They enjoy coming to work, they enjoy the process and going through it together. You can build on something like that.”
Green has been the most impressive in preseason action and averaged 23 points on 31-of-53 shooting in the final four warmup games.
- The Southeast Division rivals split four meetings last season, with each protecting home court.
- Charlotte G Jeremy Lamb (ankle) sat out the final preseason game.
- Wade went 9-of-33 from the field in the final three games of the preseason.
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