Gabe Vincent says he chose the Lakers because he wanted to join a contending team and compete for championships. The Modesto, Calif., native also mentioned the advantages of being closer to home and playing for an iconic franchise.
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) July 9, 2023
Vincent’s decision to leave the Heat after four seasons appears to be partly due to the proximity of his hometown of Modesto, which is located in Northern California. Yet, why he feels the Lakers are seemingly more of a contender than the Heat is something of a mystery.
In Vincent’s first season with the Heat during the interrupted 2019-20 campaign, the team managed to reach the 2020 NBA Finals before falling to the Lakers in six games.
The following year turned out to be a disappointment for the Heat, but reaching Game 7 of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals got the team back on track. That was followed by another deep playoff run this past season, which culminated in another berth in the finals.
In contrast, the Lakers’ fortunes have been filled with plenty of disappointments since capturing that 2020 championship. The following year, the team exited the postseason early, due in part to key injuries.
The next year, the addition of guard Russell Westbrook brought visions of another NBA title for the Lakers. However, the year turned to be a disaster because of more injuries and chemistry issues related to Westbrook, resulting in the team missing the postseason altogether.
During a good portion of the 2022-23 NBA season, the Lakers were in danger of again missing the playoffs. However, once they got going, they ended the seasons of the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors in six-game series.
That magic ultimately died in the Western Conference Finals when the Lakers were swept by the Denver Nuggets in four games. Since that disappointment, the team has added Vincent and also re-signed key players in that playoff run, Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura.
How far the Heat were willing to go to retain Vincent is now a moot point, with the team’s current focus now on acquiring superstar guard Damian Lillard.
On July 1, Lillard asked to be traded from the Portland Trail Blazers. Despite that request, there’s no guarantee that the team will agree to send him to another team.
Reportedly, the Heat are at the top of Lillard’s list, which is somewhat problematic for the team. That’s because the Trail Blazers will undoubtedly seek to extract as much talent as possible from the Heat to make a deal happen.
Vincent’s development with the Heat made him a desirable commodity in free agency. When the Lakers come to visit Miami during the 2023-24 season, it’ll be interesting to see what type of response he gets from the Heat fan base.