PITTMAN’S NBA DREAMS COMING TRUE IN MIAMI
Ex-Longhorn not only in NBA, but has chance to play with James
Maybe Dexter Pittman should play the Lotto. But no need for that. He feels like he just won it.
The former Texas center had two goals when he left Rosenberg Terry High School. One was to have a chance to play in the NBA. The other?
“To play with LeBron James,’’ Pittman said by phone Wednesday.
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Pittman, assuming he makes the Miami Heat’s roster, will not only get his wish to play with James, but he’ll also play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, two of the best in the game.
Pittman was one of the millions of television viewers who tuned in last week to see James announce his intention to join Wade and Bosh on South Beach, transforming the Heat into an instant championship contender. It was great news for Pittman, who had told Bosh one month earlier that he would love to have him as a teammate. Now this.
“I was pretty excited at the moment, but I was like, ‘I can’t get too excited because this is the NBA,’ ’’ he said of James’ signing. “It’s a business. I was looking forward to playing with
Continued from C1 (Wade), but I wasn’t expecting LeBron and Chris to join.”
Pittman walked through the Heat’s locker room a day after the announcement and noticed that James already had a locker with his No. 6 jersey, formerly belonging to guard Mario Chalmers. He also informs us that there is a throne, presumably for King James, located in the arena.
Ah, the luck. Is there a better scenario for an NBA rookie center than knowing he will be asked only to rebound, block shots and get the occasional putback for a team with three Olympic gold medalists who have all averaged 20 points per game in this league? Think Boston’s Kendrick Perkins with a better version of the big three.
Pittman is coming off a tumultuous spring. He struggled down the home stretch and saw his draft stock fall, followed by the tragic death of his teenage brother in May.
But he has emerged on the other side. He’s in Las Vegas playing with the Heat’s summer league team this month and this is his first taste of the NBA experience on the court. He debuted with five points and three rebounds on 0-for-4 shooting against a ream of fellow rookies and free agents from New Orleans on Sunday, then came back with seven points and four rebounds against Golden State two days later. He was held out Wednesday with a sore toe.
He’s landed in a good situation. He won’t be asked to score or do things outside of his comfort zone. With three All-NBA performers on his team and highly respected big man Zydrunas Illgauskas having just signed, Pittman has reason to smile.
After struggling offensive-
Miami rookie ly in the second half of his senior year, Pittman, once thought to be a no-brainer first-round pick while dominating in stretches of his junior year, was surprised to see he was projected to go in the second round by some mock drafts.
After the Longhorns finished a disappointing season with a first-round loss to Wake Forest in the NCAA tournament — Pittman’s late struggles were a source of frustration — he went to NBA draft camps, but had his tour cut short after receiving the news that his 16-year-old brother Darius Johnson had been shot and killed in Houston on May 20. For a guy working to make his dreams happen, the news could not have come at a worse time.
“It was tough,’’ said Pittman, who is still not entirely comfortable discussing the subject. “It kind of took me back for a while, but now I’m back on track.”
With tough times hopefully in his rear view, Pittman is doing one of the things he does best. He’s rebounding.
Pittman knows getting drafted isn’t the end of the journey. Now he has to prove he belongs.
The absence of a face-up jumper and questionable stamina — even after losing close to 100 pounds while at Texas — are possible reasons he slipped to the second pick of the second round at No. 32 overall, but he believes the best is ahead.
The 5:30 a.m. workouts with UT strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright pushed him to his physical and mental limits, and now he’s reaping the benefits. The ups and downs of his college career have given him more motivation and a mature perspective on his new profession.
And there are the nicknames. He came to Texas as Big Dex, then became Dex-a-Trim when he lost the weight. Then he became Sexy Dexy.
So what’s the latest moniker?
“South Beach has already given me a new nickname,’’ he said. “They’re calling me Big Sexy.”
The NBA is a man’s game and Pittman knows nothing will be given to him. He will have to play much better than he did in the final month of college if he is to stay in this league.
His first goal is to drop 20 pounds off his 303-pound frame before the season starts, which will help with his stamina. Then the rest is basketball. Assistant coach Keith Askins is helping for improved footwork in the paint. They call it dance class. And you know he’s taking a lot of jumpers in practice.
This is what Pittman always dreamed of doing. Now it’s starting to take shape.
“It’s all about working hard every day,’’ he said. “I’m going to keep pushing myself to get better. I’m excited.”
‘It’s all about working hard every day. I’m going to keep pushing myself to get better.’
DEXTER PITTMAN, former Longhorn and second-round pick of the Heat