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Sixers-Heat Preview: A Lot Has Changed In A Year

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As the Miami Heat have come into town for the Sixers' home opener a second year in a row, Liberty Ballers chatted with SBNation's Hot Hot Hoops about our respective teams and the game.

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Time flies, doesn't it? It really doesn't seem that long ago that Michael Carter-Williams had a historic debut against the then defending NBA Champions Miami Heat. I sure remember the confused looks I got at the library when I raised my hands in triumph as the Sixers won. It truly was the highest point of the Sixers season, even if it was only their first game.

Though, since that fateful night, much has changed for both teams as they've gone through their respective face lifts. The Sixers will feature a completely different starting lineup compared to last year, with MCW out and the other 4 starters jettisoned through various means.

Meanwhile, the Heat unfortunately became the new ex-girlfriend, as LeBron James took back his first love in Cleveland. Not wanting to completely fall apart, however, the Heat managed to re-sign Chris Bosh to a huge contract as well as bring in guys like Luol Deng to bolster their lineup. What was the Big "3"  has now become the Bosh and Wade Show. Subsequently, their success now ultimately relies on Wade remaining healthy and Bosh regaining the primary role he left in Toronto.

The outlook is vastly different for both teams. While the Heat are trying to remain relevant with an improving Eastern Conference, the Sixers are just trying to improve.

To get more of a pulse on each other's team, Matt Pineda (@PinedaHEAT), a Senior Writer at SBNation's Hot Hot Hoops, had the idea of doing a 5 question exchange. While you can check out Jake Pavorsky's Q & A over at HHH, this is what Matt had to say to us.

1. The NBA Finals and the off season were quite a whirlwind to say the least. How do you think the Heat managed to do in all of the fall out (both draft and free agency) and how do you feel going forward?

I think they managed well considering the circumstances. It became clear it was hard for them to acquire free agents when they didn't know the plans of LeBron James (see Pau Gasol). And once he left, the Heat immediately kept the rest of the core intact, and got Luol Deng to join in. The fact that they are still bolstering a top team in the East after losing LeBron shows the strengths of Pat Riley (considering how Cleveland faired when James left). We are excited about Shabazz Napier, even though he was "LeBron's pick.

2. Outside Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, which Heat player do you think will be the most important for their success this season?

I think it has to be Luol Deng. He has to fit in for them to be successful. But we've talked about the value that McRoberts will bring, and really an all out improvement from everyone else. Norris Cole is now starting for the Heat, and they have a young fan favorite named James Ennis, you may have seen his dunk. But Deng will be the most important piece moving forward. He is a great off ball player, but the matter still remains for him to find his way as the third option.

3. What do you think is the Heat's biggest strength? Biggest Weakness?

Their biggest strength is probably their experience. With Wade, Bosh, Haslem, Andersen, Cole, and Chalmers, they have a core of championship experience. I think that helps them in the run. Biggest weakness is and will continue to be rebounding. They have to remedy this in some way.

4. How do you think the Sixers frenetic style of play will fair against the Heat?

I think it's somewhat difficult to tell because the Heat have slightly changed their defense in the wake of losing LeBron. I will say that it's not uncommon of a frantic style of play to hurt Miami. But the Heat bolster a smart defensive lineup with Deng, Wade, Chalmers and Bosh so I think they'll figure it out. I like Miami's chances in this one, but you can never disregard a team's home opener. I like Miami, 105-94.

5. I always ask a variation of this question as a part of our "Halftime Hangout" on our Gamethreads. What'd you have for dinner last night?

Chicken and noodles with mashed potatoes and corn. It was delicious