Somewhere between confident and optimistic -- that's where the Miami Heat's collective mindset resides as the franchise gets set to open its season Thursday night against the visiting Milwaukee Bucks.
The Heat are built around point forward Jimmy Butler and small-ball center Bam Adebayo.
Butler, a five-time NBA All-Star, led the league in steals last season. He also led the Heat in scoring (21.5) and assists (7.1).
Adebayo, who is 6-foot-9, averaged a career-best 18.7 points last season and finished first on the Heat in rebounds (9.0). At age 24, he already is an All-Star and a two-time second-team All-Defensive player.
Butler and Adebayo are a big reason why the Heat are confident, but the optimism centers on the offseason trade for six-time All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, whom the Heat believe has plenty left in the tank, even at age 35.
Last season, Lowry averaged 17.2 points, 7.3 assists and 5.4 rebounds for the Toronto Raptors.
"Kyle is a great leader and an exceptional defender," Heat president Pat Riley said. "He will bring great skills to run the offense and to score."
The Heat also brought in as free agents two gritty defenders to share time at power forward: P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris.
Tucker, 36, is a former second-round pick out of Texas and one of the most tenacious defenders in the game. Last season, the 6-6, 245-pounder helped the Bucks win the NBA title, doing a stellar defensive job on Devin Booker of Phoenix and Kevin Durant of Brooklyn.
Miami's fifth starter is 6-7 shooting guard Duncan Robinson, who made 40.8 percent on three-pointers last season, averaging 13.1 points. In the past two years, Robinson is third in the league in made three-pointers.
Tyler Herro is Miami's key bench player.
Meanwhile, the Bucks opened their season on Tuesday with a 127-104 win over the visiting Brooklyn Nets.
Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists. Khris Middleton, his most trusted sidekick, had 20 points and nine rebounds as the Bucks also collected their championship rings.
Milwaukee's point guard is Jrue Holiday, who is coming off a huge year. Besides the NBA title, Holiday (and Middleton) won Olympic gold medals over the summer. Holiday also was named to the NBA's All-Defensive team for the second time in his career.
Center Brook Lopez is Milwaukee's fourth returning starter. He ranked seventh in the league in total blocked shots (103) and was a decent shooter on 3-pointers (33.8 percent).
Milwaukee's new starter is shooting guard Grayson Allen, who made 39 percent of his three-pointers last season.
The Bucks' bench is led by 6-8 forward Jordan Nwora, a second-year player out of Louisville who had 15 points on Tuesday; and 6-5 shooting guard Pat Connaughton, a former Notre Dame star who scored 20 on Tuesday. Both are former second-round picks who bring energy.
In fact, Allen, the key new arrival, said he has been impressed with the demeanor of these veteran Bucks players.
"Nobody walks around here like they won a championship last season," Allen said. "Nobody's talking about MVPs, championships -- none of that."
--Field Level Media