“YOU PLAY FOR THE HEAT?”
“YOU PLAY FOR THE HEAT?”
Yes, Ivan, Dexter Pittman is a rookie center with the Miami Heat.
While Pittman was on the bench for the Sioux Falls Skyforce on Friday night at Tullio Arena, Erie BayHawks power forward Ivan Johnson was barking at him while waiting for one of his teammates to attempt a free throw.
Pittman said stuff like that happened to him during his first run with the Skyforce this season.
“I expect it,” he said. “When you come down to this level, you’ve got a big target on your back. It’s nothing.”
Pittman is where Johnson wants to be – the NBA. So Johnson was taking this game even more personal since he was matched up against the 6-foot, 11-inch, 300-plus pound rookie out of Texas.
“That just shows me that I can play in the league (NBA),” Johnson said. “Playing against dudes like him. I’m not saying he’s a trash player, but I can hang with some of the best of them.”
They went at each other in Erie’s 97-91 win. Johnson had a game-high 25 points and five rebounds while Pittman had 15 points and just three boards.
It was fun to watch.
The action began early in the first quarter when Pittman attempted to block Johnson’s shot off the glass. Pittman fell down over Johnson and the two ended up on the floor.
Pittman tapped Johnson on the chest to see if he was OK. In reaction, Johnson shoved Pittman’s hand away while the two were trying to get up.
With blood running down the left side of his face, the chiseled 6-foot, 8-inch, 230-pound Johnson was asking why wasn’t Pittman called for a foul.
From there, it was on.
“Referees weren’t calling nothing so I got to make it happen,” said Johnson, who had four to six stitches where the cut was. “Got to do something. I’m not going to blame the referees.”
Johnson took the ball right at Pittman on the next play and later in the half, drove down the lane and dunked with Pittman in clear view.
Johnson wasn’t the only one going at the Heat rookie center.
On consecutive trips, Toronto Raptors rookie Solomon Alabi dunked on Pittman. The first time was off a perfect pass from Tasheed Carr.
Alabi had Pittman on his high side so Carr threw it over the top to allow Alabi to turn and dunk with two hands.
Then on the next play, Alabi took a pass from Derek Raivio and threw one in Pittman’s face with one hand to send the crowd in a frenzy.
“I’m just trying to be aggressive,” Alabi said. “That’s what it is, man. I realize I got to play aggressive every time I get the ball. Every time I’m on the court. I’ve got play aggressive.”
The dunks got Johnson pumped, too.
“That’s what we need,” Johnson said. “I love Solomon for that, man. We need that. We need him to play like that every time. I got hyped.”
Even former Gannon standout Kyle Goldcamp went by Pittman for a layup.
Yep, the target is big on his back, but Pittman kept his cool for the most part.
Unlike Johnson, who is ultra intense, Pittman is more casual. He’ll smile and laugh, but he’s not soft by any stretch. Just ask Goldcamp, who was on the receiving end of one of his dunks.
Pittman also overpowered Alabi for a bucket or two. Then late in the game, he powered by Johnson and hammered one home with one hand to pull Sioux Falls within a point, 89-88, with 1:59 left in the game.
“I don’t bite back unless someone bites me,” Pittman said. “(Johnson) started at me. I just play my game. I didn’t let him take him out of my game.”
Pittman had a chance to tie the game, but missed the ensuing free throw. Then with the Skyforce down three, 91-88, Pittman was stripped by Erie forward Nate Linhart while going to the basket.
Linhart is nearly 100 pounds lighter than Pittman, but slapped the ball away from him.
“The ref didn’t call it so it wasn’t a foul, but in my opinion, I think it was,” Pittman said. “No disrespect to the refs. They called a pretty fair game. I should have kept the ball up, but I tried to catch it and gather myself.”
Pittman said he’ll learn from this game. One person he’ll surely remember is the guy who was asking him if he played for the Miami Heat.
“I don’t know if he looked at it as a big challenge,” said Erie first-year coach Jay Larranaga when asked about Johnson taking on the challenge of facing Pittman. “To me, I think Ivan is one of the best players in the league so I think our opponents should be taking on the challenge of playing up to his level. The motivation he gets going into the game I’m all for.”