"UD threw a chair!": Gabe Vincent on favorite Heat culture moment, joining LeBron James' Lakers, coach Darvin Ham and more (Exclusive)
Before he could even practice in hopes of maximizing his worth on the team’s depth chart, Gabe Vincent already learned where he currently stands. Lakers coach Darvin Ham has already proclaimed D’Angelo Russell as the team’s starting point guard entering the 2023-24 season.
“That’s something for D Ham to worry about. I’m not the coach,” Vincent told Sportskeeda. “I don’t set lineups. I just go out there and do my job. I’ll do whatever I can to help this team win games.”
That attitude partly explains why the Lakers acquired Vincent on a three-year, $33 million deal. In his fourth NBA season, the 27-year-old Vincent played a valuable piece to the Miami Heat’s NBA Finals run with his outside shooting, defense and flexibility with any role.
Gabe Vincent full interview (Sportskeeda)
Vincent spoke with Sportskeeda about how his time in Miami will prepare him for his time with the Lakers as well as other topics. Those included, the impact of LeBron James’ mini-camp in San Diego, whether the Denver Nuggets’ NBA title run gives Vincent and his Lakers’ teammates additional motivation, his favorite “Heat Culture” story and more.
The following one-on-one interview has been condensed and edited.
How have you spent the offseason to get ready for training camp?
“Just staying in the gym. I got to market a little early and got here for about a month. I’ve been working with the staff and working with my teammates and some of the young guys. Some of the vets got here early as well. I’ve been familiarizing myself with the organization and the staff as well.”
Camp hasn’t started yet, but what have you gotten familiar with so far?
“Our system and the way we do things day-to-day. There are a lot of new names and new faces. I’m getting to know people as well. It’s been great to be here to expedite this process and get things rolling.”
How was LeBron’s minicamp in San Diego?
“It went well. It was good to get everything in the same building and get a little jumpstart. It’s about the times we got together on the court. We had some dinners and did some things off the court to try to bring the team closer together bit by bit. But it was great to get everyone in the same building and compete a little bit and work on our games. It was fun.”
Outside of the dinners, what team bonding things did you do?
"Dinners (laughs). We’ll just say dinners (laughs).”
No paint-ball excursions?
“Nah, nothing too crazy (laughs). Nothing too crazy.”
What do you think the San Diego minicamp will do in the big picture?
“Continuity and togetherness is important in my short experience in the playoffs and down the stretch of a long season. Any chance you can to bring the group together helps and pays dividends. It was great to start that process early and get everyone familiar with one another.”
Have you also returned to UC Santa Barbara yet?
“I went there after I signed [in free agency]. I did a minicamp up there for five days. I brought some guys I work out with up north in Sacramento. We locked in there and got some work in and hung out for a bit. It was great to be back there and to be with their [coaching] staff. I’ve talked to the team a few times. It was cool to see them, see them practice and get back to my stomping grounds a little bit. It’s obviously a beautiful city. So I’m keeping those ties strong while doing my work in. I get in and get out. It’s been a great resource for me in the summer.”
What was your message to their players?
“Mostly keep the big picture in mind. It’s hard to accomplish big goals. They have big goals with winning the whole thing in the NCAA tournament, and we have big goals with winning an NBA title. It’s about stacking days, fighting for one another and sacrificing for one another. It’s about doing whatever you can to help our programs win.”
What did you do at camp?
“I had to take some time off because it was a long post-season run. I couldn’t take too much time off, though, so I had to find a happy medium. That was my ramp-up, get back in shape, and jumpstart kind of thing. So, it was early-morning weights and then work out in the afternoon and then repeat for five or six days. Then I went back home.”
What’s it been like to be back home now that you’re with the Lakers?
“It was a warm welcome in many places. I never realized, even in my travels, I knew how well-renowned the Lakers name is and the organization, but seeing the effect it has around the world was interesting and overwhelming at times. But it’s awesome to be a part of, and definitely something I’m embracing.”
Is it true you’re cutting off the ticket requests?
“(laughs). Yeah. Being back as a California kid, you have to draw the line somewhere. There is a lot of family and friends. We got to play it smart.”
So it’s just family?
“We have to play it smart. Family gets the first go, and then we go from there. But we can’t be buying tickets. That’s just not going to work.”
You’ve already experienced wearing different hats through your journey and your recent success. But though Darvin Ham said there will be a lot of competition for roles, he already named D’Angelo Russell the definitive starting point guard. How do you approach that element in camp?
“I just go in there and be me. That’s something for D Ham to worry about. I’m not the coach. I don’t set lineups. I just go out there and do my job. I’ll do whatever I can to help this team win games and help this organization win games. As I’ve seen in the past, every night doesn’t always look the same. With that big picture in mind with trying to help us win, I’ll wear whatever hat is needed.”
In what ways do you think your past experiences can apply to this current situation?
“I think every single one. This roster is full of talent and full of athleticism. We got a great blend of veteran guys, in-between guys, and some youth. I think we have a great makeup, a great roster. We’re going to iron out some kinks. There are going to be some growing pains, naturally. But I look forward to battling through those adversities. Hopefully, we prevail and come out on top.”
On your recent podcast appearance with J.J. Redick, you noted about the importance of making ‘winning plays.’ What are the biggest examples of those winning plays you’ll try to provide both in practice and in games?
“It looks like a lot of things. It can be a screen that’s set. It can be an extra pass. It can be communicating on defense. It can be diving for a loose ball. A lot of them are effort plays, playing hard and playing basketball the right way.”
And given that, in what ways do you think you can make life easier for LeBron, Anthony Davis and everyone else?
“I think some of what I did in Miami with stretching the floor. I think that will naturally help give those guys space to attack. But it’s also about being somebody else that can playmake that can get to the paint and playmake for somebody else that can play pick-and-roll out with either one of those guys. I can get the ball back to them or make a play for someone else or for myself. Having another guy that can be a pick-and-roll threat and space the floor and can defend, I think I bring a variety of things. It might be something different that’s highlighted each night. It may be needed or not needed. I’m just trying to step in and fill that void wherever I see fit.”
After you agreed to a deal with the Lakers, I heard that one of the many reasons was that Darvin’s message really resonated with you. Why did Darvin click with you so well?
“I think it’s just in general his route. I think there are some similarities between me and him in that regard and his journey. He spent some time in the G League as did I. There are some similarities that we have naturally, even when we sit down and talk the game and catch up. It’s seamless. We get along well. D Ham has been great. He’s been very real. So, I definitely have appreciated him early in this process.”
With your early window on seeing what it is like to be LeBron’s teammate, what’s jumped out to you with how he handles his leadership role with the group?
“It’s just how he works. The proof is in the pudding. There is no mistake. He’s had the career that he’s had because he is who he is from what I’ve seen in the last month. The way he comes in to work and the consistency, those are a lot of things that I pride myself on. To see him right there before me or staying after with me, seeing his routine and his attention to detail has been great.”
Did LeBron’s work remind you of what you all did in Miami?
“(laughs) A little bit. It’s nice to see everyone in the gym and get some work in.”
Speaking of that, what’s your favorite ‘Heat Culture’ story?
“There are so many. In terms of the culture, that’s even tougher. One of the ones that stick out, I don’t know if it’s a quote-unquote favorite story. But in the bubble [in 2020 season restart, UD [Udonis Haslem] cussed the whole team and threw a chair. That [stuff] was hilarious. It was hilarious! It’s hilarious to look back on, but it summed it up. You’re able to hold your brother accountable and you’re able to be real knowing we have this collective goal in mind and you’re able to speak plainly. You get straight to the bottom of it, find a solution and move forward. We thrived down there. We’re able to have an outburst and know it’s not personal. We can take that and progress forward.”
What was the context of that moment?
“From what I can remember, we weren’t playing hard. I was a two-way player at the time. I wasn’t necessarily playing that game. But our overall energy and effort wasn’t where it needed to be. I think ‘Spo [Heat coach Erik Spoelstra] said a few things here or there. But for whatever reason, it wasn’t fully settling into the group. I didn’t know if we were just tired or fatigued. There are a number of things that come into play with an NBA season, especially in the bubble. Not everyone is going to have a good day all the time. So sometimes you need that fire lit under you. UD did that. He had a great read in the locker room and created that space. That’s a credit to UD and his leadership and being able to have a feel for when more is needed.”
Similar idea. What’s your favorite Jimmy Butler story?
“Oh man. You name them. His play in the Milwaukee series and seeing him get into his mode and will us in more ways than one. He really got the ball rolling for the run that we had, especially this season. He did a lot more talking. When we were down, that was when he was at his best. That was great to see him get into that mode. That confidence that he exudes when he is in that mode is just special.”
What was it like witnessing that in real-time during a high-stakes series?
“He was just like, ‘It’s go time.’ If that’s where one of your leaders is at, you follow suit. You do what you can to keep up. You do what you can to go even harder. You pick up the pieces and help them to see how hard he was playing. A lot of us wanted that success for him as well.”
Considering the Denver Nuggets ended the Lakers’ playoff run and stopped your chance in Miami to win an NBA title, what’s your sense on whether you and a group enter training camp with a chip on your shoulder?
“For any organization or team that is really concerned about winning a title, you have to talk about the team that just won. How can we beat them? They’re still the best team until they’re beaten. Until someone is crowned NBA champion, they’re the champions. It plays a role and something we’ll prepare for. Denver is still a very good team. They’re still the champions. There have been other moves around the league. But Denver plays a big role in that, especially now that I’m in the West and on the Lakers’ side. I’m going to see them four times instead of two. It definitely plays a role.”
Ultimately, what it’s going to take to win an NBA title whether you go through Denver or not?
“It’s a pretty simple recipe. We have to guard at a high level. We have to have an efficient offense. We have to be together. We have to share the ball. A lot of it is playing the game the right way. We’re a talented group and we are very deep. We have guys that are coming off the bench that would start on a number of other teams. We have a pretty dynamic roster. So, I’m looking forward to seeing how we come together and what we can build off of.”
What was your reaction to the Damian Lillard trade to Milwaukee, both with the trade itself and knowing Miami wasn’t able to get him?
“When a big-time player like that makes a move, it sends ripples throughout the league. With him no longer being in the West, that’s part of the battle. But you also have to see how the other teams benefited as well with how Phoenix changed a bit and how Portland changed a bit. You’re trying to track which moves may continue to happen. Is this the end of the trades? Or will there be more? Are those people involved still going to get moved again? I’m trying to keep track of things without getting too distracted. At the end of the day, we have to focus on us. My main focus is the Los Angeles Lakers and how I can help us be the best team. Even though I may be aware of what’s going on, I’m still very focused on us.”
How did you deal with free agency knowing this ultimately did affect you? Right away, Miami was clearing cap space to try to get Dame.
“Things moved quickly for me when June 30th hit. I tried to find the best situation for me and my family. Luckily, I landed here in LA and I’m looking forward to it. I’m here to compete and try to help this team win. Being a California kid, I’m excited to be back out West. I’ll do what I can to help this prestigious organization.”