For the much of the 2012-2013 NBA season, Chicago Bulls fans were waiting for Derrick Rose to make his return. Despite reports that the point guard had been medically cleared, Rose never took the court. Now, the former MVP is set to play in a meaningful game for the first time in 549 days.

Rose leads the Bulls into AmericanAirlines Arena for a matchup with the Miami Heat. It’s the first game of the 2013-2014 season for each team.

After being so precautious with his knee injury, Rose is looking have the best season of his young career. He sat out one exhibition game with soreness, but didn’t appear to be affected by the torn ACL he suffered in the 2012 playoffs. He averaged 20.7 points, 5.0 assists and 3.3 rebounds, while playing just in 27.4 minutes per game.

"I think I'm way better as a player," Rose on Tuesday. "My IQ has gotten higher and just the way that I play I think I'm a more efficient player. And my teammates that allow me to play the way I normally play so that's a blessing."

With a healthy Rose on the roster, many experts are predicting the Bulls to dethrone the Heat in the East. The team has won back-to-back championships, and they’ve reached the NBA Finals in all three seasons that LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have played together.

Since the formation of the “Big Three,” though, Chicago has played Miami as tough as anybody. In that time, the two teams have split their 18 meetings, including several games that Rose missed because of injury. The Heat won their 2012 conference semifinals matchup, but the Bulls were missing a few of their top players. In addition to Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich missed the entire series, and they still managed to win Game One.

Chicago’s success stems from their physical style of play. Tom Thibodeau’s defense is not afraid to deliver hard fouls to the NBA’s top star, and James doesn’t get many easy baskets against the Bulls. After Chicago snapped Miami’s 27-game winning streak last year, James complained after the game, claiming the Bulls should have been whistled for more fouls.

"We don't like them, they don't like us," James said on Monday. "It's not unheard of. We all know how it is."

Even though the Bulls have been able to stay competitive, the Heat have always gotten the last laugh. In Rose’s 2011 MVP season, Miami took care of Chicago in five games, holding him to 35 percent shooting from the field. This season, there’s a good chance the rivals will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, once again. has the Heat as the favorites to win it all, followed by the Bulls with the second-best betting odds.

Neither roster experienced much turnover in the offseason. Miami added free agent Greg Oden, while Chicago signed Mike Dunleavy Jr.

Las Vegas Betting Odds: Miami favored by 5 points

Over-Under: 187.5 points

Start Time: 8:00 PM Eastern Time 

Where To Watch Free Online: TNT Overtime

TV Channel: TNT 

Prediction: Miami 94, Chicago 90