Defending a title is one of the hardest things to do in any sport, especially in the NBA.

Teams in the past like the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics make it seem like an easy task to run off multiple championships when it reality it took not only overwhelming talent, but also an unlimited amount of hard work and focus throughout the entire process.

That being said, the gerneral consenus regarding the NBA is that the Heat will once again come out of the Eastern Conference in hopes of defending their title, which makes sense. 

Miami has improved with the addition of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.  Norris Cole played great during the preseaon.  Dwyane Wade is well-rested and ready to go, LeBron James is in his prime, and Chris Bosh was the Heat's most consistent player putting up solid numbers with limited minutes this offseason.

However, let's take a quick look back at last year's NBA playoffs.  In particular I'd like to address two teams here: the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics.

Although Miami was able to handle the Knicks particularly easy, the potential has always been there for New York. Right off the back let it be known that this series would have been much more competitive if Iman Shumpert was not taken out with an injury.  Beforehand he was playing amazing defense on Wade and really making him work on both ends of the floor.

Now, New York has added Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Ronnie Brewer, Raymond Felton, and Rasheed Wallace as they await Shumpert's return later on in the year.  Most importantly Carmelo Anthony seems to finally have his head on straight and to be more about winning than scoring.

By adding another peremiter defender in Brewer, The Knicks are ready to compete with Miami this season.  Although they won't be at full force this coming Friday against the Heat with no Amare or Shumpert out there on the floor, you will be able to get a glimpse of how good this new Knicks team can really be.

On the other side of things, the Celtics have made it clear that they do not like Miami.  Especially after the Heat have knocked them out of the playoffs the last two years and now managed to persuade Ray Allen to join the cause.

What people do not realize is that the Celtics are a drastically better team than they were last year when they managed to take the Heat (for the most part Bosh-less) to 7 games.

Boston has added Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Leandro Barbosa, Jason Colllins, Fab Melo, Darko Milicic, and Jared Sullinger.  Also, let us not forget that Avery Bradley will be returning after his injury, a premier defender in this league who possess supreme athleticism and backs down from nobody.

Clearly, the revamped Celtics plan on being ready for the Heat this year if they are to meet up for the third year in a row.

Based off these two teams alone it should be apparent that Miami's path to another championship will be no easy one.

They'll also have to go through an improved Indiana Pacers team and the 76ers with their new big man Bynum.

Don't be too quick to size the Heat for their 2012--2013 rings just yet.