Ask Erik Spoelstra about the development of Gabe Vincent and the Miami Heat coach invariably returns to the time the guard spent with the Heat in the 2020 pandemic quarantine setting at Disney World.
“I always point back to the bubble,” Spoelstra said, with the Heat hosting the Denver Nuggets on Monday night at Miami-Dade Arena. “That’s when we really had a lot of time. We were practicing, film sessions, meetings. We had so much time just to work on player development.
“And he was exclusively at that point [on the] scout team, ‘be this guy.’ And so you learn about whether a player can put themselves in somebody’s else’s shoes and then apply it.”
The irony is that among those who Spoelstra had Vincent emulate was Kyle Lowry, the very player whose shoes Vincent has been asked to fill amid Lowry’s current absence due to knee pain.
“That’s correct,” Vincent said. “One of them was this man right here.”
That was offered as Vincent walked past Lowry’s locker, one that has been vacated by the ongoing discomfort that will have Lowry out through the Heat’s Feb. 16-23 All-Star break, and likely longer.
“The bubble was great overall for my development in a number of ways,” Vincent told the Sun Sentinel of his scout-team impersonations. “I got to play as a few players.”
Now, opposing scout-team players are emulating Vincent, who has helped the Heat get on a roll since Lowry has been away from the team, having had similar success in last season’s playoffs while Lowry was sidelined.
From impersonations during that time in 2020 while on a two-way contract to impressing in recent games, Vincent, Spoelstra said, has shown an ability to continually evolve, having had his moments this season both as starter and reserve.
“Usually it was like we had him as a facilitator, an attacker from the point position,” Spoelstra said of Vincent leading the scout team during the Heat’s run to the 2020 NBA Finals. “And then, as he started breaking into the rotation, his role was far different from who he was from when he came into the G League with the Sacramento program and then initially with us.
“So the role for him to earn more minutes would be to set up the offense, be a combo guard that was more of a point-centric guard, get the ball where it needed to go, play off of guys as a spot-up guy. And then, as his minutes and opportunities grew, that just set the table to play with either unit very well.”
The next step for the Heat is to determine what the next step can be, with Vincent to become a free agent in the offseason. Excising Lowry’s salary would make a contract pitch to Vincent a simpler process.
For now, the 26-year-old guard who went undrafted out of Cal-Santa Barbara in 2018 is providing a bridge to what the Heat hope will be a quality playoff seed.
“What he has given us is consistency, in terms of his approach and his defensive tenacity, his voice,” Spoelstra said. “And his skill set has really improved in these three years, from being a combo two-guard gunner, to really kind of being a guy that you can morph into both the units very well. Because he can be a setup guy, he can be a facilitating guy, he can still be a guy that plays to his instincts and scores the basketball.
“All these things over the course of this heavy developmental program that he’s committed to has just added all of these things that have earned the trust of everybody, the players and staff alike.”
On Friday night, it was a perfect alley-oop inbounds pass with seven-tenths of a second to play for Jimmy Butler’s game-winning dunk against the Houston Rockets. Saturday night, it was a 3-pointer to open the scoring in overtime in the comeback road victory over the Orlando Magic, giving the Heat their first lead of that game.
All done with the Butler seal of approval, which is particularly meaningful since it was Butler who pushed for the Heat to add Lowry.
“It’s big for him to run the offense the way he does, and he’s asked to guard a really good offensive player on the other end,” Butler said of Vincent thriving in such double duty. “Then you never know when the shot’s going to come, and you’ve always got to be ready to step into it and knock it down, stay aggressive, get the ball to everybody.
“But that’s what a true point guard does, and he’s done that so well this entire year, whether it’s coming off the bench, whether it’s starting. Gabe is key to us, for us, and he will be for a very long time.”
Source: Berkshire mont