Despite having dealt with a number of injury and COVID-19 issues this season, the Miami Heat currently find themselves near the top of the Eastern Conference standings. The team has been able to be so successful this campaign because of solid contributions from many of its role players.
One of the Heat’s best role players this season has been third-year guard Gabe Vincent. After playing for the Nigerian national team this past summer, Vincent is currently in the midst of the best season of his career.
He has stepped up when called upon, and he has shown lots of growth in just about every part of his game throughout the 2021-22 campaign. Vincent believes that his summer, which included a 21-point performance against Team USA prior to the Tokyo Olympics, has been huge for his improvement this season.
“Playing basketball at a high level always helps,” Vincent told HeatNation.com in an exclusive interview. “You gain more experience. You get more comfortable. You start to see the same actions. You build confidence through those experiences, so I think a lot of that, the combination of it all, has helped going into this season.”
Although he’s naturally more of a shooting guard, the 25-year-old has spent a lot of his time with the Heat playing as a point guard. He credits Eric Glass, his player development coach, for taking the time to help him.
Vincent admits that while the transition to the point guard position has been difficult, he is grateful for the added responsibility.
“I appreciate the responsibility,” Vincent said. “I’m still learning it obviously. I’m continuing to learn it, definitely enjoying it though. It’s been fun. It’s been challenging at times, trying to figure out different situations or different lineups and figure out how to get guys the ball where they want it and learn my teammates in different ways. But it’s been a good experience so far.”
Kyle Lowry has recently been out of the Heat’s lineup due to personal reasons. Lowry’s absence has given Vincent the opportunity to move into the starting lineup, and the University of California, Santa Barbara product has taken advantage of the opportunity.
In his last eight games, all of which have come as a starter, Vincent is averaging 13.6 points, 5.4 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game on 42.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc. The Heat are 5-3 during that span.
Despite his fantastic performances, Vincent could find himself out of the rotation once Lowry returns. Vincent already spent a little more than two weeks out of the Heat’s rotation earlier in the season. He finds that falling back on his routines has helped him stay ready whenever he gets his name called by Erik Spoelstra.
Nonetheless, with no confirmed timetable for Lowry’s return, Vincent might just end up being the Heat’s starting point guard for a little while longer. That is something he is ready for.
“I know what they ask of me,” Vincent said. “It can be inconsistent at times, but I know what I can bring to the team, and I know that I can help us win in a number of ways. It might be something different every night. I wouldn’t say it’s easy by any means cause you build a routine and rhythm and so forth.”
Throughout his time in Miami, Vincent has been able to grow close to a number of players. He grew close to Andre Iguodala and Goran Dragic, both of whom are no longer on the team. He has also been able to forge close relationships with Heat stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, constantly going back and forth with them during practices and games about how he can help them on the court.
However, Vincent has really been able to lean on Lowry this season for help as he continues his development. The 6-foot-3 guard actually spent the last couple of years studying the six-time All-Star.
Now, Vincent has the chance to ask his questions directly to Lowry, and that’s something he’s thankful for. Even before games he hasn’t played in, Lowry has texted Vincent about how opposing defenses will guard the pick-and-roll between him and Adebayo.
“He’s been great with my development this season especially, pouring confidence into me, wanting me to handle more, helping me set him up, set other guys up,” Vincent said of Lowry. “Right now, Kyle has been a huge help, especially as I’m trying to learn this point guard position.”
Vincent has thoroughly enjoyed his time in Miami, mentioning that it has been everything he’s needed in terms of getting his work in. He’s appreciative of the Heat organization for helping him develop and become the kind of player he wants to be.
He was part of the Heat team that made an epic run to the NBA Finals in 2020 in the league’s Orlando, Fla. bubble. After Miami got swept by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of last season’s playoffs, many people began to call the Heat’s run in the bubble a fluke. Vincent isn’t worried about what those people have to say.
“A lot of people like to look at our bubble run and say it was a fluke and whatever the hell they want to say, but we were in the finals,” he said. “So they can say whatever they want. We were playing at the time when there were only two teams playing.”
Currently, the Heat hold a 32-19 record. Despite having its Big 3 of Lowry, Butler and Adebayo available for only 14 of its 51 games, Miami has still found a way to keep winning. A lot of that is due to the contributions of role players like Vincent.
This season, he is averaging 9.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from 3-point range. All of those numbers represent career-highs.
The Heat are arguably the best team right now in the East and one of the best teams in the entire league. One thing is clear: The Heat are serious title contenders. Miami certainly isn’t focused on winning anything less than a title.
“We all want to win a ring,” Vincent said regarding the team’s goals for the rest of the season. “We all want to be back in that run, in that race and playing in June.”
With a little more than half of their games played and the All-Star break approaching soon, Vincent and the Heat are in a fantastic spot. With his solid play on both sides of the ball this season, it would be no surprise to see Vincent helping the Heat compete — and win — once June rolls around.