MIAMI (AP) -Heat guard Dwyane Wade is a Chicago guy, someone still in love with his hometown. But the Chicago Bulls rarely give him a warm reception.
Bulls forward Andres Nocioni pushed Wade in the back and sent him sprawling after a play two years ago, then delivered more hard hits on him during last year's Miami-Chicago series, won by the Heat in six games. This season, Kirk Hinrich tugged the Miami star's arm so hard that Wade sprained a wrist.
And the Heat expect more ruggedness from the Bulls starting Saturday, when the teams open an Eastern Conference first-round rematch in Chicago.
``Am I concerned? Yeah. Knowing Scott Skiles, yeah,'' Heat center Shaquille O'Neal said, referring to the Bulls' head coach. ``He'll be saying foul him, foul him hard.''
If Wade shares that concern, he's not showing it - yet, anyway.
Chicago's four losses in the series a year ago came by 43 points; Wade made 31 free throws in those games, meaning his work at the foul line played a big part in ensuring that Miami got to the second round, its first step toward winning the NBA title. And if the Bulls want to push, poke, prod and pester him in this series, that's just fine with him.
``You expect a team to be physical,'' Wade said. ``I'm not going into it saying they're going to be physical because I'm injured. I don't think that way. But I expect it to be physical. They're a very physical team, they want to send a message, so you've got to be prepared for that.''
The Bulls-versus-Wade issues are hardly the only ones defining the subplot surrounding this series.
Heat forward James Posey often finds his way into scrapes against Chicago, including pushing Hinrich during last year's playoffs and drawing a suspension, pushing Bulls forward Luol Deng this year in the same game where Wade's wrist was hurt, and also was the player who jostled with Chicago rookie Tyrus Thomas for a rebound on opening night, inadvertently breaking Thomas' nose.
Posey is trying to downplay all the rivalry talk.
``We just want to go out there and play,'' Posey said. ``We're the defending champs. We just have to go out there and play and if we do that, take it one game at a time, we should be fine.''
Wade missed 23 games with a dislocated left shoulder, and is still rehabbing in an effort to fully recover from that injury - so expect to see Chicago test the joint, and his pain tolerance, by running him off a lot of screens where his left side will collide with opposing players.
But if the Bulls go too far in that regard, O'Neal and Heat backup center Alonzo Mourning - a sculpted 6-foot-10 presence who doesn't shy away from physicality, either - will be watching, something that puts Wade's mind at ease.
``I'm not worried about that,'' Wade said. ``I've got the biggest bigs in the league with Shaq and Zo. I'm not worried about that at all.''

Top NBA Public Bets

NBA Top Stories

Thumbnail Will Fox be a top-5 pick? With the 2017 NBA Drafttakes place later tonight. Where can we expect one of the top prospects, De’Aaron Fox, to land tonight?
Thumbnail Fultz to go to the 76ers? The Boston Celticshave traded out of the No. 1 pick. The Philadelphia 76ersnow hold the top pick once again. Is it a slam dunk who they will take in the NBA...
Thumbnail 2018 NBA Finals Odds After dominating the 2017 NBA Playoffs, will anyone keep the Golden State Warriors from winning the NBA Finals again...
Thumbnail Stephen Curry Game 5 Props Will Stephen Curry bounce back from a poor showing in Game 4 when the Golden State Warriors host the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals tonight at 9PM...
Thumbnail Will James get another triple-double? Will LeBron James add to his NBA Finals record of nine triple-doubles when the Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the NBA Finals...

NBA Team Pages