Not too long ago, the Miami Heat reached the NBA Finals in the 2020 NBA Bubble. Last season, they entered a game for a return to the Finals, losing in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Boston Celtics.
A lot happened with the Heat during the 2021-22 season and it seems they have never had a consistency with their lineups and courses. Jimmy Butler, Pam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry all missed portions of time due to injuries, which ultimately hurt Miami’s chances of success.
However, this allowed the rest of the team to prove their worth and as a result, the Heat showed the rest of the league that they are a very deep team. Teller Hero ended up winning his sixth NBA Most Valuable Player award, Caleb Martin proved his worth on the wing, and Gabe Vincent truly rose to a much bigger role in the backcourt as a primary playmaker and coach of the ball for Miami in Lowry’s absence.
Calculating the average of career-highs in points (8.7), assists (3.1), rebounds (1.9), three-point shooting percentage (36.8 percent) and minutes (23.4), Vincent’s third season in the NBA helped cement the fact that The Miami Heat are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
In preparation for training camp ahead of the start of the 2022-23 NBA season, Vincent took some time to talk to Fastbreak on FanNation recently and discuss what his journey in the league has been like, as well as what we should expect to see from the Miami Heat next season.
The last offseason was all about finding ways to improve and prove your value to the Miami Heat as a key rotation player. What has this outsider been like for you in terms of taking the next step as your fourth season approaches?
Gabe Vincent: The focus in this off-season has become a more efficient and effective player, especially at the offensive end of the ground. It may not be realistic to see a massive increase in shots per game as my fourth season approaches, but what is realistic for me is affecting the game in more ways than one. Being aggressive and playing defensively will not only help me take the next step in my career but will help the team grow as a whole.
What kind of impact did the veterans you played with early in your career have on your personal development?
GV: I have been fortunate to have some wonderful and experienced colleagues. Kyle [Lowry] and Jimmy [Butler] He helped me a lot, as did Odonis Haslam, PJ Tucker, Andre Iguodala and Jay Crowder. The more I was around the league, the more I realized how rare the veteran leadership experience I had during my time in Miami. It’s something I didn’t take for granted and to be honest, I’m like a sponge when it comes to learning from these guys. Being able to pick their minds and understand the way the NBA works and how to have the right mental approach every day, even on the days we don’t play, is something I am very grateful for.
Last season you scored the highest in your career in minutes, points, games, shot percentage, etc. What happened in this professional year for you?
GV: My main focus was trying to influence one thing and that was winning. I had a great season last year in terms of competition and ended up playing a lot of competitive basketball. Continuing to play off-season has been helpful and helped me achieve that competitive advantage in the following 2021-22 season. This off season was a little different due to the fact that I didn’t play for the Nigeria national team this summer, but I had a lot of time just to work on my career and my body. Spending time with my family and getting some time to focus on my personal life has also been great for my mental health. In my view, what proved to be the difference in the end was the fact that I had always competed at the highest level and as a result, I was constantly getting better in multiple areas.
You also hosted an off-season camp at your former high school. What does giving back to the community mean to you, especially the community in which you grew up as a young basketball player?
GV: I love him. I love camps and I love being around the kids and helping them grow in the game. Basketball is a universal language and I tend to learn from these kids and other players as much as they do from me every year. Being able to go back to my community and high school to put that clinic for children means the world to me. I don’t know if I’ll be able to give back to that community for the impact it’s had on my life, but that won’t stop me from doing my best to do so. You never know who you’ll inspire and who you’ll make their day and their world out of a small act of kindness. I know how important these little things are to kids because when I was young, I couldn’t go to NBA games and wasn’t as lucky as the others. I see some of these kids looking at me like I’m living the life of their dreams and when I look back, I was once that kid who also dreams. I hope to be able to continue to do these camps and give back to my community for many years to come.
Were there any doubts in your mind about getting to where you are today with The Heat?
GV: I think any time you’re on a mission or on a difficult journey like this, it’s normal to have doubts. However, at the same time, these doubts motivate you and push you to strive for more. Of course I had some doubts about this point, but I always keep a positive mindset and focus on what I have done well rather than any negative aspects of my journey. Being consistent and constantly pushing myself helps me reach my goals on and off the basketball court.
The season may not have ended the way you all would have liked in the playoffs, but going 53-29 is no small feat. How can you and your team build on this success as the 2022-23 season approaches?
GV: I think we are in a very unique situation. We brought in a lot of players from last season and I think our learning curve will be a lot less as a result. Being really comfortable and having the chemistry we have with each other allows us to stay focused on the tournament-like goals we have. We know what we are capable of and having that bad taste in our mouths from what happened in the past postseason is just extra motivation. For us, our pre-season mentality is ‘championship or bankruptcy’ and we know we have what it takes to get back to the NBA Finals.
What were the biggest takeaways for you or the team as a whole from last year’s playoffs?
GV: The biggest lesson is that everything matters. That’s the only thing we appreciate, and the groundwork we’re doing in a few weeks here at the training camps sets the framework for how things go in April, May and June in the playoffs. No matter what happens over the course of the season, keeping the big picture in our minds is what will help us achieve long-term success.
Miami is all about its nightlife, and as a result the city itself has a certain level of booty. Who on the team has the most booty and who rocks the best costumes every day?
GV: I guess it’s hard not to say “Boy Wonder” here. I’m going with Tyler Hero. His character kind of embraced being the one with all the swag due to the fact how confident he is. He shows this not only by the way he wears to training and walks to the ring before the games I’ve watched, but the way he plays as well. His confidence is the first thing you notice in his game and Tyler did a great job in his role early in his career. The sky is the limit for him.
We have to talk about this because many around the basketball world are wondering… How in the world does Jimmy’s coffee compare to Starbucks and Dunkin’ coffee?
GV: Those who say that Jimmy Butler isn’t a great pal may not have met Jimmy and they weren’t in the locker room with him. Everyone loves Jamie and the most important thing about him as a person is that he not only expects excellence from himself, but also from everyone else around him. If he’s going to do something, he’ll do it 110 percent and not do a “half-step” of coffee. Starbucks may not be with a thousand chains, but Big Face coffee is the elite. I will endorse his coffee any day of the week!
Going back to your journey as a base guard in the NBA, where do you think you rank among the other guards in the league today?
GV: I’m definitely still growing and becoming a good goalkeeper. I think I’m unique in the way I play attack and defense and that’s why I’m here with the Heat today. In terms of ranking among others in the NBA, I’m going to let you all deal with that, but I’m excited about my development in this position and in the league. I know I’m just scratching my head and I’m excited to get back out there and fight for a championship.
What are your personal goals for entering the 2022-23 season?
GV: I want to increase my numbers in all areas. More specifically, I want to increase my efficiency because that will lead to the growth and improvement of the whole team. This also applies to the assist-to-turn ratio. Taking care of basketball and having extra possessions is very important to me personally, that way we all have a real chance to make our dreams and goals a reality.
When you look at your career 15-20 years from now, what do you want people to remember about you?
GV: When you watch someone play the game, you get a good idea of what kind of person they are. I think I’ve always taken a very serious and very professional approach to the way I act on and off the floor. When you look at someone like Udonis Haslem and the way he approaches his career every day, you get a pretty good idea of who he is as a person. For me, defining my character by the way I work, the way I compete and the way I’m there for my teammates is what I ultimately want.
What should we expect from the Miami Heat in the 2022-23 NBA season?
GV: For us, the goal is always the same, and that is to be the last team standing when all is said and done. We’ll be back in action soon so we can play late in June and there’s no one within this organization who doesn’t think that’s not possible. We know who we are and our mistakes over the years have helped us know what we need to do to be the last team standing.