Toronto Raptors sophomore forward Quincy Acy is still trying to find his niche in Head Coach Dwane Casey rotation. This summer, Casey was playing with the idea that this high energy player could find a role guarding bigger small forwards, but so far, the 6’8 combo forward is just staying ready for anything.
“Just staying ready, that is the main thing. Just staying ready and looking like I belong when I get out there,” Acy said. “(Instant impact) has always been my place. The high energy, hustle, do all the little things. (I am) just trying to find my niche right now and that is going to be making smart plays, doing things to ignite the fans, ignite the team if we need a lift and that is my focus.”
If you watch the young player on the bench waiting his turn, Acy is staying busy getting ready to play. Even when it seems unlikely he’ll be called upon, Acy is stretching or bouncing to keep warmed up. Last season and during this preseason, Acy has been ready to take advantage of whatever minutes Casey gives him.
“(Coming in off the bench) it is tough as you get a little older and that is why if you see me on the side, I’ll be stretching my calves or doing something to stay loose because I never know when I am going to be called,” Acy said. “It is up to me to stay ready.”
It is obvious that while Acy has been showing some small forward like skills in preseason, he views himself as a power forward and wants to compete in the painted area. One of the stronger guys on the roster, Acy knows he is under-height, but feels like he can play as if he is 6’11. It’s all about using what he has effectively.
“I am pretty much one of the strongest dudes on the team in the weight room,” Acy said. “I am undersized sometimes, so size takes over in certain situations, but physically, I am all right to compete. It is just learn the game, think the game and just be smarter than people. If I am at a disadvantage with my height, I have to use my I. Q.
“Since college, people would always say I was too small to play the post, but why is there a required height to play the position? It is about whatever you can provide and if someone is bigger than you, that means you are quicker than them or if they are faster, you might be stronger. There is always a counter to everything. I don’t really get caught up in the height too much. I think in my mind that I am 6’11. All that matters is the fight in the dog.”
If Acy wants to play for Coach Casey, he knows he’ll earn his minutes at the defensive end of the court and so far in preseason, Acy has looked more comfortable defensively than last season or at the Las Vegas NBA Summer League this past July.
“Over the summer, I hadn’t been working on the defensive schemes, so I might have lost it again, but in training camp, that is all (Casey) has been emphasizing,” Acy said. “It’s brought up memories of what I was supposed to do last year and if I focus on that, I keep getting better and better. We have great players and they challenge you defensively every day with their offense and I think that helps a lot as well.”
The Raptors defense often resembles a zone – even when it’s not, but the emphasis is on keeping your man in front of you and protecting the paint. It is not a defense that tolerates a lot of mistakes or unnecessary gambles and Acy knows Casey hates defensive mistakes.
“Guard your yard is the term,” Acy said. “Keep the person in front of you and you won’t have any problems. Obviously there is help defense and all that, but whenever it is you one-on-one, you are supposed to be able to check your man.
“Don’t make mistakes. (Casey) hates when I reach around, let somebody go by me, he thinks I am a better defender than doing something he considers lazy. It takes pride, hustle and work ethic to keep somebody in front of you the entire time even when you are tired. (Casey) asks that I stick to my defensive principles at all times.”
The Raptors big man rotation is set with Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough expected to get the bulk of the minutes. Aaron Gray is there to guard the paint against the handful of truly big dominate post players, so Acy’s opportunities may be limited at first. It is a long season, however and Toronto doesn’t have a lot of size outside of the expected rotation, so Acy will get his chance to play eventually.
“This is kind of the same situation as last year,” Acy said. “I just have to wait my turn or take my turn and just stay ready. Come in focused every day and continue to get better, continue to work hard and everything will work out for me.”
Acy’s hustle, effort and flashes of skilled play has caught the attention of both his coaches and the fans. The 23-year-old is a slightly under-sized forward, but he is proving, it is the fight in the dog that counts and he can play bigger than his 6’8 height would suggest. When Acy does get his chance during the regular season, he’ll be ready.
Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.