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Cavaliers and Celtics prepare to renew rivalry

Shaquille O'Neal spent his final day of free time where any super hero would hang out.
/ Source: WHDH-TV

Shaquille O'Neal spent his final day of free time where any super hero would hang out.

He went to Disney World.

Now Superman is preparing for his Cleveland Cavaliers debut against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night in one of the league's most heated rivalries. The two teams that open the season in the East could also be the final two teams remaining in the conference finals -- though defending Eastern Conference champion Orlando may differ with that prediction.

"You can't win the championship winning the first game. You still have to play all 82 and go through the postseason," O'Neal said. "But you always want to try and get off to a great start."

With a day off on Sunday, O'Neal took his family to Disney for one final day of fun. From now until the playoffs, his quest is to win the Cavaliers' first championship in franchise history.

Cleveland traded for O'Neal for games like this against Kevin Garnett and the Celtics, who eliminated the Cavs in the playoffs two years ago on their way to their first NBA championship in 12 seasons.

That heated series launched a feud that boiled all last season. It bubbled up in last week's preseason game in Columbus, when the Cavs' Mo Williams was spun to the ground near the end of the first half. He got up and threw an elbow into the chest of Boston's Shelden Williams, who shoved back before order was quickly restored.

LeBron James said a rivalry needs a little trash talking and two good teams to beat up on each other. The Cavaliers and Celtics meet that standard.

"I think we have that history with Boston," James said Monday. "We had a great postseason with them and we've had some great regular-season games with them. So I guess this is our new rival."

Boston won last week's preseason game by 14 despite resting Garnett and Ray Allen. Winning in Ohio, even during the preseason, is good news for the Celtics. Including the postseason, the home team has won the last 16 meetings in this series -- Cleveland has won its last eight games against Boston at Quicken Loans Arena.

"We definitely don't expect it to go the way it did (last week)," Boston's Paul Pierce said. "We want to win everywhere, man. I don't care where it is when you play the Cavs. They're a team that we probably are going to have to go through in the Eastern Conference. They're going to be right up there at the top if they stay healthy toward the end of the year. It'd be great to win in that building."

Cleveland's Leon Powe is witnessing the rivalry from both sides. He spent his first three seasons in Boston, winning a ring in 2008. He signed with the Cavaliers during the summer, but won't play in Tuesday's game. Powe is rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered during the playoffs and is expected back around the All-Star break.

Powe knows the Celtics aren't big fans of the Cavaliers.

"Honestly, they don't like them," he said. "They want to beat them every time. And I know our mentality over here is the same. Every time we play against the Celtics, we want to beat them and make a statement. What better way to do it than on opening night?"

Cavaliers coach Mike Brown has cautioned for the last week that his team may struggle early while adjusting to all the new faces. Cleveland won a franchise-record 66 games last year, but its summer makeover included O'Neal, Powe, Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon. The flu ripped through the team late in the preseason, preventing Brown from settling on his rotations.

Cleveland also has been without guard Delonte West, who has practiced but didn't appear in any preseason games.

Brown said on Monday he isn't sure yet whether West will be active for the season opener. Brown confirmed that a domestic violence complaint had been filed against West over the weekend, but he did not offer any details. Brown said West was at practice on Monday, but the player was not made available to the media.

Multiple calls by The Associated Press to the Cleveland Police Department were not returned on Monday.

West, who has been treated in the past for bipolar disorder, twice left the team in training camp for personal reasons. He is also facing misdemeanor weapons possession charges stemming from a September arrest in Maryland.

Now the Cavs are forced to move on, at least temporarily, without him. Parker has replaced West in the starting lineup and the Cavs say they're ready to go.

"We're going to give some punches, we're going to take some punches," Powe said. "May the best team win."

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)