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Heat's Gabe Vincent playing his best basketball at the perfect time

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Bam Adebayo remembers the momenthe started looking at Gabe Vincent differently.

“Man, [it was] when he torchedus in the Olympics, in the exhibition game facing Nigeria,” Adebayorecalled. “He came out with that type of energy, that type ofvoracity and that type of anger. I felt like fromthere, ‘He's one of us.’”

In the game Adebayo referenced,Vincent scored 21 points, drilled 6-of-8 threes and clinchedNigeria's exhibition win over Team USA with a pair of clutch freethrows in the final seconds. Vincent decided to wear Nnamdi (hismiddle name) on the back of his jersey, describing it as “analter ego of sorts; I almost becomea different person.”

Now, back on one of basketball’sbiggest stages, Nnamdi has resurfaced.

Vincent played a huge role in Miami’s win over theDenver Nuggets in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, as he finished with 23points, 4 threes, 3 assists and 2 steals on uber-efficient66.7/66.7/100 shooting splits. Through two Finals games, Vincent isaveraging 21 points, 4.5 threes, 4.0 assists and a steal, whileshooting 57.7% from the field, 56.3% from three and 100% from thefree-throw line.

He's had a number incredibleperformances during these playoffs, including 29 points, 6 threes,3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block on 78.6/66.7/100 shooting in a Game3 win over the Boston Celtics, a 22-point, 6-assist, 4-three outingto eliminate the Milwaukee Bucks, and back-to-back 20-point,5-assist games against the New York Knicks.

“We love Nnamdi. We really do,”Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “If you don't know that[moniker], the national media, because you're not following us,please look that up.

"Nnamdi, he's a special guy. Hereally is.”

Gabe Vincent is the kinda hooper you love toplay with. (via @MiamiHEAT)pic.twitter.com/qT6ekpY390

— SLAM (@SLAMonline) June 5, 2023

By now, you have certainly heardthat Vincent went undrafted in 2018. He spent the first two yearsof his pro career playing for the Stockton Kings of the NBA GLeague, and he earned the G League’s Most Improved Player awardafter averaging 21.1 points, 4.2 threes, 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 assistsand 1.2 steals, while shooting 40.6% from deep.

Miami gave him an opportunityduring the 2019-20 season, signing him to a two-way contract. TheHeat saw potential in him, but they wanted him to transition fromshooting guard to point guard. He put in a ton of work, winningover the coaching staff and his teammates.

“He was with us in the bubble asa two-way guy. He took on, I think, the toughest role change for ayoung player,” Spoelstra explained. “He was a gunslinger 2-guard[and] we wanted to develop him into a combo guard, somebody thatcould organize us, be an irritant defensively, tough, learn how tofacilitate and run a team. I think that's the toughest thing to doin this league: turn a 2 into a 1. He openly just embracedthat.

"He struggled at times with thatbecause you're trying to reinventyourself.Instead ofsaying, ‘This is too tough, let me be me,’ he's really grown thelast three years. He's just an incredible, winning player. Thisyear, he's been a starter for us. He's been great. [When] he's offthe bench, he's been great. He's like a lot of our guys, thecompetitive spirit. You get challenged like we're gettingchallenged in this series, you hope it brings out the best in you.And that's what it's doing with him...

“People severely overestimatewhat you can get accomplished in a day, and they grosslyunderestimate what you can get accomplished in a matter of months[or] years when nobody is paying attention. And he's the epitome ofthat.”

Looking back on his transitionfrom shooting guard to point guard, Vincent admits that it wastough and credits his support system for helping him with thechange.

“It definitely wasn't easy,”Vincent said. “The staff was great with me – whether it was [watching] film or getting inthe gym –and my teammates have beenphenomenal, coaching me up, telling me to be more aggressive whenI'm questioning it or trying to think, ‘Should I pass first?’ Andour stars, Jimmy, Kyle [Lowry], Bam, they have been in my ear andtelling me just to play basketball. They trust my IQ of the game,and they want me just to go out there and play hard.”

Spoelstra isn’t the only one wholoves Nnamdi; he has a lot of fans in Miami’s locker roomtoo.

“He's carving a space forhimself,” Adebayo said of Vincent. “[He’s proving] undraftedplayers can start in the Finals and be productive. It doesn't meananything that he's undrafted.”

“I see it every day… I know howcomfortable he is,” Jimmy Butler said. “I know the level ofconfidence that we have in him and that he has in himself to go outthere and run the offense at any point in time, first throughfourth quarter, maybe even overtime. And we live with the decisionsand the shots that he makes and takes. He's our starting pointguard for a reason.”

Entering the postseason, nobodythought the Heat could go on a Finals run. They are a Cinderellastory, proving all of their doubters wrong and doing theunthinkable – just like Miami’s undrafted players (Vincent, CalebMartin, Max Strus, Duncan Robinson, Udonis Haslem, HaywoodHighsmith and Omer Yurtseven) have done by becoming key pieces inrecent years.

“This season has beeninteresting. We've had highs, we've had lows,” Vincent said.“Obviously, we've made a push from the eight seed to the Finals.We've showed a lot of resilience, a lot of persistence, a lot ofbelief in one another.”

As Vincent mentioned, this Heatteam is extremely resilient. Throughout these playoffs, the Heathave won seven games after trailing by 10 or more points, which istied for the most comeback victories by a team in a singlepostseason.

“It's just part of our DNA, forone,” Vincent said. “Everyone on this team has battled throughadversity in some manner and been knocked down and had to get backup. And number two, we have a lot of experience in these closegames. So when it comes down to the wire, we are strangelycomfortable… I think [Spo] loves these moments as well. He lovesthe competition. I think this is similar to other guys on our team.I think this is when we get the best version of Spo.”

Regardless of the deficit, Miaminever thinks they are out of a game. Their confidence neverwavers.

“I think you grow confidence inanything you're doing with the amount of work you put in, whetherit's cooking or golf or basketball,” Vincent said. “I think we allput a lot of hours and time in and extra reps and shots so thatwhen the time comes, you have faith and have confidence because ofthe work you have instilled. This group especially has put in a lotof work on the court [and] off the court, battling together. We'redefinitely a confident group.”

Vincent’s breakout couldn’t havecome at a better time – not only because he’s helped propel Miamiwithin three wins of a championship but because Vincent will be anunrestricted free agent on July 1.

Vincent earned just $1,815,677this season, which ranked 397th among all NBAplayers.Now, after his terrific postseason,the 26-year-old is poised for a big payday.

An NBA scout recently told Barry Jackson ofthe Miami Herald that Vincent's next deal could pay him around$10-11 million annually.

"I've gone from thinking this guy is a good $3 millionbackup to [thinking he's] a $10 million, $11 million player; he'sworth that in today's NBA," the scout said. "The guy has produced whenit counts, and that's what teams are looking for. He has risen tothe occasion.

"He's up and down at times with his shooting, but he'sa clutch shooter, and that means something. He has got cojones.He's never afraid of the moment. You get high effort defensively.Decent playmaker, has toughness. To me, his value correlates a lotto his scoring."

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