Gabe Vincent was looking forward to the Los Angeles Lakers’ lone regular-season trip to Miami to face his former team Monday, but a nagging knee injury derailed those plans.
Vincent, 27, was also looking forward to returning to the Miami Heat in free agency this summer, but business derailed those plans.
“It’s unfortunate,” Vincent said by phone to the Miami Herald of remaining in Los Angeles while the Lakers travel to Miami to take on the Heat on Monday (7:30 p.m., Bally Sports Sun and NBA TV). “I obviously wanted to go play in the arena again, play in front of the fans again. Definitely wanted to go be there, support my teammates and go compete. It’s just unfortunate that I wasn’t able to make the trip.”
Instead, Vincent will watch Monday’s game from Los Angeles supporting his new team just five months after playing as the Heat’s starting point guard in last season’s NBA Finals.
Vincent, who went undrafted out of UC Santa Barbara in 2018, left the Heat after becoming one of the organization’s undrafted success stories. He spent the past four seasons with the Heat after initially joining Miami on a two-way contract midway through the 2019-20 season.
Vincent entered free agency this past summer hoping to return to the Heat, but ended up signing with the Lakers after not receiving the offer he was looking for from Miami.
The Heat’s final offer to Vincent was a four-year deal worth about $34 million ($8.5 million per season). He ended up taking the Lakers’ fully guaranteed three-year offer worth $33 million ($11 million per season).
“I think I had a good playoff run, and I think that changed my value,” Vincent said when asked why he ultimately didn’t return to the Heat in free agency. “ I think once that changed, it just became more difficult. I think Miami wanted me to be there. I think I was naturally looking to return to the team I just had a Finals run with and the team I had been with for the last three or four seasons. It’s unfortunate it didn’t work out. But my value had changed.”
With the Heat entering free agency this past offseason already deep into the luxury tax, even just adding $2 million to Vincent’s salary for this upcoming season would have added more than $5 million to the team’s tax bill based on Miami’s then-salary cap situation.
Vincent, who appeared in 55 regular-season G League games before emerging as an NBA rotation player with the Heat a few years ago, played on a minimum salary of $1.8 million last season.
“I’m not going to sit here and act like the dollar figure didn’t play a role at all. It did. I’m human,” Vincent said of his free-agent decision to sign with the Lakers. “A guy like me with my kind of background, we don’t see opportunities like this often. So I wanted to make sure that I took the best situation overall for me.”
The fact Florida has no state income tax helped close the gap between the offers, but it wasn’t enough to keep Vincent in Miami.
“My taxes took a hit and it still ended up being more,” Vincent said. “Some people will say it’s not much more. But I also was in the G League a year and a half and I was on a much different salary. So I don’t undervalue any bit of it. Obviously, I’m grateful to the Heat and I’m grateful to the Lakers, and I’m excited to have this opportunity and I’m just trying to make the most of it.”
What does Vincent miss most about Miami?
“I think the answer is just the people,” Vincent said. “The people, the overall culture of the city, and then my teammates and the staff and the organization that I had grown to know and care for.”
Vincent felt the love from the Heat, too, even on his way out.
“I think the love that was there was mutual,” he said. “Sometimes business just gets in the way. I think that was the case with that, unfortunately.”
Now, Vincent will be watching Monday’s game taking place at his old home from his new home.
“I guess my return to Miami will come at a different date,” said Vincent, who was born and raised in California. “I wish my squad over there the best of luck, my squad being the Lakers getting this win.”
After opening the regular season as the Heat’s starting power forward, veteran Kevin Love was taken out of the starting lineup in the sixth game of the season for Friday’s home win over the Washington Wizards.
Forward Haywood Highsmith, who is a smaller but more versatile frontcourt option at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, was moved into the starting lineup in the 6-foot-8 Love’s place. Love did not play at all Friday despite being in uniform, receiving his first DNP-CD (did not play, coach’s decision) of the season.
“I think the word is fluid,” Love said after Sunday’s practice when asked about his role change. “There’s going to be opportunity, cases for me throughout the season where it makes sense to go big. It’s just that so many teams around the league now are playing four smalls and one big. So I think you see that a lot, even with the four man as simply a guy who can play two through four. I think it poses a lot of matchup problems and speed and quickness for a lot of teams.
“I think we were searching. Obviously, 1-4 is never the way you want to start. But it’s on all of us to be pros and when our number is called, be ready to go.”
Following Friday’s win, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra made clear “K-Love is going to have a role for us” despite not playing him against the Wizards.
“It could be a game-by-game basis for somebody like myself,” Love, 35, said. “The biggest thing for me is just communication. If it’s communicated and there’s transparency, I’m going to be more than OK and I know how much to expend myself, stay in shape.”
LEBRON, THE ALIEN
At 38 years old, LeBron James enters Monday’s matchup against the Heat averaging 24.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game while shooting 56 percent from the field in his 21st season.
“He’s redefining what is possible with human performance at that age,” Spoelstra said of James, who he coached for four seasons from 2010 to 2014 with the Heat. “It’s a credit to his work ethic. I don’t think that gets talked about enough. How much he commits his life to this game. He doesn’t take it for granted, he doesn’t take his talent for granted. He matches his talent with a work ethic and you don’t see that very often, particularly if you’re the most talented guy in the league.
“It would be very easy to put in half the time and I would say the average fan would not even notice the difference. But if you want to play at that type of exceptional level, you have to be putting in a great deal of commitment behind the scenes. ... I’ll use the word alien. That’s just what he is and that’s why he is who he is.”
The only Heat players who did not practice Sunday were wing Caleb Martin (left knee tendinosis) and two-way contract guard RJ Hampton (non-COVID illness).
For Monday’s matchup against the Lakers, the Heat listed Hampton as questionable, Jimmy Butler (right knee tendinitis) as probable and Duncan Robinson (right wrist sprain) as probable. Martin will miss his sixth straight game.