Miami won it all last season, and their championship banner will be raised before Tuesday's game.
But Boston coach Doc Rivers is playing copy editor, and in his book, that phrase doesn't work.
"I never believed that anybody is ever defending a title, because that was last year," he said Monday, according to ESPNBoston.com. "[The Heat] don't own the trophy this year. That's what I tell our guys: Miami isn't considered anything. They won the title last year. You don't give your trophy back — that's in boxing, where you get the belt back. That's defending the title. You win a new title."
Rivers said he preached the same thing to his team in 2008, after Boston won its first championship in decades.
The Celtics also brushed off questions about playing former teammate Ray Allen, who has had plenty to say about his exit from Boston in recent days.
Rephrasing the terms — or saying no one's going to be thinking about Allen come Tuesday night — seems to be semantics at this point, though, as many people are looking forward to the highly anticipated rematch of last year's Eastern Conference finalists.