INDIANAPOLIS – When the Memphis Grizzlies decided to waive him days before last season’s playoffs, Dexter Pittman understood his NBA production wouldn’t warrant immediate attention in free agency. Pittman needed to change his workout regime, and so he discussed a plan with his agent, Mitch Frankel, and left to train in Las Vegas just one week after his release from the Grizzlies.
Pittman had finished the rookie scale contract he signed with the Miami Heat, but another deal depended on how he handled a summer without a team and working out on his own. At Las Vegas’ famed Impact Basketball facility, Pittman ran drills and games from April through the offseason.
Pittman already played far below last season’s playing weight of 275 by the time summer league started, and he moved around with an extra bounce and a trimmed appearance that NBA executives in attendance noticed while watching the center with the San Antonio Spurs.
Pittman told RealGM he had received offers from the Spurs and Atlanta Hawks after summer league, but he rejected them for a deal to head to the Chicago Bulls’ training camp.
“I was out there in Vegas training the whole time, all summer, until I came here,” Pittman said. “Me and my team talked, and it was just a sacrificing summer for me. I sacrificed.”
The Heat believed they could groom Pittman into a rotation role at center, but the 25-year-old never earned trust in their system and dealt with nagging injuries. Under Impact trainer Joe Abunassar, Pittman participated in workouts to increase his stamina, elevate his conditioning, and heard perspectives from the NBA veterans who would work out inside the facility.
“It was a good feeling there,” Pittman said. “Being around all those guys, I learned things from every different guy. Al Harrington, Jermaine O’Neal, Serge Ibaka. Some of the guards like Tyronn Lue. It was a great feeling being around them and that’s something I’m looking forward to doing every summer.”
For now, Pittman is among several training camp invites battling for a spot on the Bulls’ regular season roster. He’s already played a role in the development of the team’s season, receiving credit from Derrick Rose as the player who helped him get over a mental hurdle when the two collided in practice early in camp.
The Bulls could benefit from an extra big man into the season, with Joakim Noah and Nazr Mohammed as the only natural centers, and Pittman also chose them over the Hawks and Spurs due to Tom Thibodeau’s defensive emphasis.
“It worked out with the Bulls better because of the style of play,” Pittman said. “As long as I keep working hard, I’m confident. The sky’s the limit.”