Gabe Vincent was settling in to his new reality this summer when laundry day hit him with a reminder that things were about to change.
“My clothes were dirty and I had this pair of sweats,” he said with a slight laugh.
That pair of sweats, though, were useless now — another pair about to be banished to some garbage bag or storage closet. Those pants had the Miami Heat logo — the one representing the only NBA home he’s ever known. And now that he had signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, there was no point in looking back — even on a pair of sweats.
“I put them on once, flipped inside out,” he said. “… Didn’t feel right — even though they’re the same exact sweats with a different logo.”
Vincent has a new home now, a new logo to rep in L.A. The 27-year-old was the Lakers’ key external acquisition this offseason, agreeing to a three-year deal worth $33 million in the opening moments of free agency.
“Adaptability is part of evolution, part of change and part of growth. Especially in this league, if you’re not able to adapt,” Vincent told The Times, “you’re not going to survive long.”
He was a priority this offseason — “character through the roof,” one Lakers insider said.
“I was thrilled when we found out we could get him,” coach Darvin Ham beamed after one practice this week.
The bags of Heat gear, one of the minor perks from four years with the franchise, will eventually get shipped out, probably to friends in Miami where they can be donated.
“I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do with it,” he said with a shrug.
The Lakers, though, have already seen exactly what they’re getting with their new guard.
Rumors of Vincent being one of the NBA’s “true professionals” have been confirmed. After one of the Lakers’ opening week practices, Vincent shook hands and thanked every coaching and support staff person on the court after he wrapped his shooting work.
“He’s all about that connectivity and togetherness,” Ham told The Times.
The intangibles Vincent brings completely fit much of what Ham is about. Vincent worked his way into the league, rising from UC Santa Barbara to an undrafted player in the G League to a two-way deal in Miami to a starting role in last season’s NBA Finals.
In many ways, he came to define what the Heat have done to be consistently successful — a diamond they mined through their development system.
“I think they seek out guys who align more with their overall mission,” Vincent said of the Heat. “… They find the people that align and it’s easier to have everyone pushing in the same direction. If they’re coming in aligned with that, it’s less of them trying to force this person to mold to us. And more of them seeking out those that do what they do already. … You have guys like Max Strus and myself performing well in the playoffs. Caleb Martin. To a lot of people, it’s unexpected, like, ‘Wow, where did you guys come from?’ This is the result of hard work put in.”
Vincent is slated to come off the bench for the Lakers, a guard more than capable of playing with whatever lineup Ham cooks up. He started 34 games for Miami last season in the regular season before averaging 12.7 points while starting all 22 of the Heat’s playoff games on their way to the Finals.
In his first week with the Lakers, he’s already come up big in a scrimmage, hitting a deep three for a winner in one period of play.
“We’ve got more than one person that’s won a title,” Vincent said. “We’ve got guys on multiple teams that had playoff runs. We’ve got youth. Even guys that are in Year 9 like DLo [D’Angelo Russell] he’s not very old. But he’s experienced in the league. It’s just a healthy blend of young and old. And lot of in between.
“Just brings the liveliness that you need to take on the grind of a 82-game season, the excitement to play every night. And then we have the experience when we get down to that time of the year when it’s time for the playoffs, where those that have gone the distance, that have seen it and felt it and others that have come close — it’s a good blend.”
Life with the Lakers will be different from his four years with the Heat, hardly a small-market team that flies under the radar. Still, the changes from being a Laker have begun to occur.
“I think everything here is just more. More staff, more stuff available. A bigger market. Way more media. Even media day was like, ‘OK, wow, a lot of folks here,’” Vincent said. “It just seems like that comes with being in this market, being in this organization that’s world renown. The Laker name is known across the world. It’s a different feel.”
With the Lakers opening their preseason schedule with a game Saturday in San Francisco, Vincent will start the process of fully integrating himself into his new team on the court — a player whom the Lakers are counting on for shooting, defensive toughness and steadiness on the ball.
It’ll be different from Miami, no doubt, but Vincent knows that things can’t stay the same forever in the NBA.
“The game changes, the game evolves, you have to adapt,” he said. “You change teams, you change situations, you have to adapt. I think that’s very much part of surviving in this league, being able to adapt.”
And, being able to put on a different pair of sweats.