DALLAS -- Finally, the banner comes up and the 2011-12 season goes off.
If it wasn't a strange enough offseason, followed by a frenzied free agency period and a rushed training camp, the rare occurrence of the two NBA Finals teams meeting in the season opener -- and on Christmas Day to boot -- is upon us.
The Dallas Mavericks that take the American Airlines Center floor at 1:13 p.m. for the raising of the championship banner won't be the same one that won the championship some six months ago in Miami. Still, the title defense must go on, and it begins today on national television against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat, the team the Mavs sent home in six exciting games.
When: 1:30 p.m.
Where: American Airlines Center
Radio: 103.3 FM ESPN/1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: Of course the raising of the championship banner ceremony takes place at 1:13 p.m. That will tie a bow on the 2010-11 Mavericks and officially launch the new-look 2011-12 Mavs. And that starts with finding out the starting lineup. Look for Vince Carter to take over at shooting guard and Shawn Marion to start at small forward with Lamar Odom coming off the bench. If you're expecting a clean, crisp performance, you probably picked the wrong game to watch. It will be interesting to see how well the Mavs mesh right out of the gate considering the loss and addition of key players and the short period of practice time and just two preseason games in which did not play its full roster in either game. Miami should be as in sync as any team because of the continuity carried over from last season, but each team will deal with conditioning issues playing in their first real game since June 12.
Key matchup: Shawn Marion vs. LeBron James
Never mind how Vince Carter plans to stick with Dwyane Wade. We'll stick with the other wing matchup. In the NBA Finals, the 6-foot-7 Marion did a marvelous job making James work for everything on the offensive end. James' supreme ability to attack the basket was choked off and he became predominantly a jump shooter, an outcome that greatly benefited Dallas. Marion also had the help of bulldog defender DeShawn Stevenson to take spells on James, plus a precision zone defense. Stevenson now plays for the New Jersey Nets and how often Dallas can turn to the zone without Tyson Chandler manning the middle and new players that must learn the intricacies of the zone will be interesting to watch. So today's game should feature one highly motivated James against Marion, who might not have nearly as much help as he did during the Finals.
Injuries: Heat - C Eddy Curry (hip pointer) is out; F Shane Battier (quad strain) is questionable. Mavs - none
Up next: Denver Nuggets at Mavs, 7:30 p.m., Monday