Miami Heat center Dexter Pittman remains studious, patient on bench

Dexter Pittman is using his limited playing time wisely by taking a studious approach on the Heat bench and working hard in practice.

12/15/2012 12:00 AM

09/23/2013 6:52 PM

There are hundreds of millions of results if you do an Internet search for the word Dexter. Above all else, you’ll find recaps, images and spoilers for the hit TV series that uses Miami as a backdrop. Scrolling down, you’ll find mentions of his flagrant foul on Pacers’ Lance Stephenson during the Heat’s playoff run last season.

You won’t find Dexter Pittman, all 6-11 1/2 of him, sitting patiently on the Heat bench in any search. The most towering member of the roster is waiting for his number to be called behind the biggest names in the game.

“When you’re surrounded by greatness, you have no choice but to work like you’re great,” Pittman said at Friday’s practice.

He said it’s surprising with a locker room rich with talent led by LeBron James (the leader in Eastern Conference All-Star voting) that there’s no evidence of soaring egos.

“That’s the thing about our team — everybody’s honest. If we see something wrong that’s not working, that guy pulls him to the side and holds him accountable,” the young center said. “You forget that you’re playing with the best player in the world.”

Pittman has only logged one minute this season — the closing seconds of the Heat’s win over the Nets — and has spent the better part of it nursing the hamstring injury he hoped to avoid after a successful stint in the NBA’s Summer League.

“I just wanted to have my body ready and be a big part of this team’s success this year,” he said. “I got a taste of what it felt like last year to be a champion and what it took.”

Pittman was shooting 69.2 percent from the field in Las Vegas, averaging 11.5 points per game playing alongside Heat teammates Terrel Harris and Norris Cole. He has spent 13 of the Heat’s 17 games with “inactive” beside his name.

“It gets frustrating sometimes, but all you can do is keep taking care of your body and working hard,” the 24-year-old said, confident that he’s feeling good. “I know when I come up to practice that it shows and, hopefully, whenever I get my shot in the game it’ll show that I’ve been putting in work.”

Pittman treats the bench like his desk. He learns from all 48 minutes, joking that sometimes it’s not easy for a teammate to get his attention, even if they’re sitting right beside him.

“It’s like ‘Pitt, Pitt, Pitt,’” he said. “ ‘Oh, my bad, I was looking at this play ...’ ”

He looks at the game as if he’s writing a playbook in his head. He took in the highs and lows of the Heat’s recent run, making note of mistakes he doesn’t want to make. Not so long ago when Pittman played college ball for Texas, his aunt taught him to be studious behind the upperclassmen who clocked more minutes than he did.

“She just told me always to sit there and learn the game. That’s what I do,” he said. “I play it like I’m in the game in my mind.”

Pittman continued to work with the Heat in a strong practice in advance of welcoming the Washington Wizards to town on Saturday night.

“Feels a little bit strange; We’ve been at home so long, and we haven’t had an opportunity to have a practice day like [Friday],” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It was good to get after it five-on-five and compete. Get a little bit combative against each other.”

The bottom-of-the-pack Wizards found all of the seams in Miami’s loose defensive plan in their last meeting, leaving the Heat paralyzed and questioning the state of their mental game.

To be back in a state of physical dominance, as in a closely played loss to the Warriors on Wednesday, is exactly where the Heat can put pressure on a weak-scoring Washington.

“We had a lot of opportunities offensively that I don’t think we capitalized on,” Dwyane Wade said. “We’ve been talking about defense, defense, defense, but I don’t think we did a bad job defensively the other night.”

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