As the Miami Heat were finalizing their 2021-22 roster, coach Erik Spoelstra chimed in on the team’s final roster spot.
At the time, the deliberations were down to Markieff Morris of Jeff Teague.
Spoelstra opted for Morris.
The biggest winner from that decision? Arguably Gabe Vincent.
For Morris, it was a season largely preempted by the 58 games he missed after his Nov. 8 tussle with Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic.
For Teague, there was no season, ultimately without a landing spot after playing a contributing role in the Milwaukee Bucks’ 2021 NBA championship, ending this past season as a regional scout for the Atlanta Hawks.
For Vincent, it opened a runway for a rotation role as backup point guard to prized Heat offseason acquisition Kyle Lowry.
It was an opportunity seized.
With Vincent now looking for more.
“I think I’ve shown I can be a rotational player in this league,” he said this week, as the Heat cleaned out their lockers following their elimination in the Eastern Conference finals. “So, obviously, yes, I’d love to play every game. But as much as I would like to play, that’s not always necessarily how the games go.”
Where there previously had been doubt about the depth at point guard, there now is the comfort in knowing that Vincent not only ably filled in for Lowry during the regular season, while Lowry was attending to a family emergency, but that the Heat went 7- 1 with Vincent as a playoff starter.
At times, Vincent also thrived while playing alongside Lowry, with plans to further steel their relationship this summer.
“I spoke to Kyle a little bit,” Vinceint said. “I’m supposed to get with him in the offseason.”
From Heat two-way contracts in 2019-20 and ’20-21 to a standard contract this past season that also included a team option for next season, Vincent arguably has shown as much growth in terms of versatility as anyone on the roster.
Turning 26 in a week, Vincent said he still looks at it as just getting started.
“For me, it’s I think similar to a lot of our guys, when you look at it all, how I could have done more and what more I could have done,” he said. “And to me, I just see there’s a whole lot of room for improvement and a lot of work to do.
“So I’m looking forward to the offseason. I’m looking forward to the grind and getting back in the lab and trying to come back next year with something different.”
At times, amid the struggles of Duncan Robinson, Vincent was called upon to revert to his previous role of 3-point specialist. At other times, he it was to play as a primary backcourt defensive stopper. And still other times, to replicate what Lowry was unable to provide due to injury, illness or absence.
“It’s been interesting,” Vincent said. “I’ve worn a lot of hats this year. I’d say it that way. So determining which hat is my best hat to wear, that can be depending on who you ask, I guess. But it’s been fun.
“And I’d like to be valuable and be on the court as much as possible. So if that requires me wearing different hats, then I’ll wear whatever hat it takes to be on the court.”
As it is, it has all been somewhat of a whirlwind, from being part of Team Nigeria’s upset of Team USA in a pre-Olympic exhibition last July, to representing Nigeria in the Tokyo Games, to providing greater value than if the Heat had recycled a journeyman NBA point guard as the backup to Lowry.
“It might be a real offseason to begin with,” he said with a smile of what is to follow. “I haven’t really stopped playing basketball for 12 months.”
Twelve months like no others in his career.
“It’s been a year full of basketball, more than it ever has before,” he said. “So it’s been fun.”