Gun control a never-forget issue for Pittman

   The audience with President Obama was brief, and Dexter Pittman knew it was not the right time, even if it was the right place.

   Then again, the Miami Heat backup center had made his feelings clear earlier in the month on Twitter, when he posted, "Gun proposal. #forit. If we had things together three years ago, my baby brother will be alive. But his life was taken by one of his peers. At 15."

   "I would have loved to talk about it," Pittman said in a reflective moment in the wake of the Heat's White House visit last Monday, the visit commemorating the team's 2012 NBA championship. "I wanted to talk to him about obesity and gun control."

   Having dropped more than 100 pounds to make it to the NBA, obesity remains a very personal issue to the 6-foot-10, 290-pound center. But no issue is more personal to the affable seldom-used reserve than gun control.

   On May 20, 2010, as the University of Texas senior was participating in the NBA pre-draft camp, for what eventually would lead to his second-round selection by the Heat at No. 32 overall, came word that his half-brother, Darius Johnson, had been shot and killed in the family home just outside of Houston.

   It was a devastating moment that immediately had Pittman departing for home, his ultimate NBA tryout opportunity cut short. But more than that, a life cut short.

   It also opened the eyes of at least one Texan to the merits of gun control.

   "There should have been better control on it a long time ago," Pittman said in the wake of his brief encounter with President Obama.

   It is why he came out so publicly for the president's latest gun-control proposal, even though for himself and his family it comes too late.

   "When we went to China, I didn't see any guns," he said of the team's preseason trip to Beijing and Shanghai, with China known for its strict gun control. "It was pretty simple. And they have more people than us in the country. So I'm like, 'Why can't our country control the same thing that they control with guns?' "

   For Pittman, personal concerns go beyond controls of a communist state versus a populist democracy. All he knows is that it was a .357 revolver that took his half-brother's life, in what later was referred to in reports as an "execution-style" shooting.

   "A friend of my brother's friend, he wasn't from Texas, he was from out of town," Pittman explained, "and there was an initiation process to get in some kind of gang, and he just shot him in the head in our garage.

   "He threw the gun in our washroom and tried to make it seem like my bother committed suicide."

   It is why when the president presented his gun-control plan, Pittman made sure his voice was heard.

   And it is why even in big-gun Texas, he has not been shy about expressing his view, one that comes from the heart and from a void.

    "I've been going around, when I'm home in the summer, talking to kids about gun violence," he said.

    It has become a family concern and cause.

    "My mom," he said, "she does some things around the community with other NBA moms, promoting non-gun violence."

    Had there been more time with the president, Pittman said he would have shared his story. But there wasn't. So instead from his pulpit alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, he makes sure that no one forgets.

    "It is an issue," he said, "we need to talk about."


   LEBRON'S BUCKET LIST: With Monday's meeting with President Obama at the White House, LeBron James said he's fulfilled his bucket list of people. Now all that remains is his bucket list of places. "There's no one that I haven't met or someone that I haven't that I'm looking forward to meeting or having an opportunity to meet," he said. "There's things that I haven't done. I want to go to Rome, see the Colosseum. I want to see the pyramids in Egypt. There's a couple of things like that. I haven't done that yet, for obvious reasons. I've been stuck playing basketball for the last three years. So I haven't had much time to do that. But there are things that I want to do that I will do. I'll have a lot of time after the game of basketball. The pyramids, the Colosseum, they ain't going anywhere." Great, better get prepared for Heat exhibitions in Rome and Cairo.

     UNION VIEW: All-Star weekend not only will have James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh busy, but also Heat forward James Jones, in his role as secretary/treasurer of the National Basketball Players Association. Amid the investigation into and leave of absence of union director Billy Hunter, the annual union meeting should have significant ramifications. "There's a lot there," Jones said of how Hunter had been operating the union. "Although it's a situation where some of the things weren't illegal, there still are issues of concern." Of the meeting at All-Star weekend in Houston, Jones said, "There are a bunch of issues to be addressed, especially business-practice issues." Jones will be up for re-election as secretary/treasurer at the meeting, "If the players want me there, I'll be there. It's not about the title. I just want to make sure our players' union, our players are represented."

     NO OFFER: Having retired in the offseason from the Boston Celtics and then bypassing this past week the potential opportunity to return to the Celtics in the wake of the season-ending injury of Rajon Rondo, the question again was raised as to why Keyon Dooling never tried for an encore with the Heat, as so many other Heat favorites had over the years, such as Eddie Jones, Steve Smith and Bimbo Coles. As it turns out, Dooling, who played for the Heat in 2004-05, would have embraced such a reunion with his hometown team, but the Fort Lauderdale native was rebuffed. "Every time I was a free agent, I would always put in a call to Miami," the Cardinal Gibbons and Dillard product said. "They never tried to sign me or re-sign me." Dooling, 32, currently is working as a Celtics consultant.

     BE LIKE MIKE: Arguably at his NBA best in the Phoenix Suns' Wednesday rally against the Los Angeles Lakers, failed former Heat first-round pick Michael Beasley went on Phoenix radio and offered his last makeover plan. "Right out of the gate, my nickname has been 'B-Easy,' for my nonchalant attitude," he said of an aspect that grated on many during his Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves tours. "But I'm trying to kind of get away from that. I'm trying to be a dog in every aspect of the game, from rebounds to defense to everything, guarding the best player, to taking over in the fourth quarter." He scored 10 of his 27 points in the fourth-quarter rally that lifted the Suns from a 13-point deficit in that period.


     44. Jersey number given 44th president Barack Obama by the Heat on Monday. Heat players who had worn No. 44 were Christian Laettner, Brian Grant, Matt Walsh, Terry Davis and Scott Hastings. Follow him at