MacKenzie: Raps’ Acy making major strides

Toronto Raptors' Quincy Acy (4), seen here pump-faking before shooting against Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris (11) and Marcus Morris (15) in NBA Summer League, is making big strides this summer. (AP/Julie Jacobson)

While Jonas Valanciunas and Dwight Buycks have been the Toronto Raptors dominating the headlines during Las Vegas Summer League, Quincy Acy has also been putting in work.

When he isn’t flexing after one dunk or getting T’d up for hanging on the rim after another, Acy has been working on what the coaching staff spoke with him about when the season ended: Getting quicker and more comfortable playing the perimeter.

After a week of playing in the shadows of Valanciunas’ strong play, Acy had his chance to step into the spotlight in the team’s final matchup in Vegas. With the team announcing that Valanciunas would sit with a sprained left index finger, there was room for someone else to shine.

Despite the end result, a 103-98 loss to the Phoenix Suns, the game was a dominant one for Acy. Facing off against the Morris twins, Markieff and Marcus, the 6-foot-7 big man finished with 28 points, 10 rebounds and another highlight-reel worthy dunk.

Acy mixed his game up against the Suns, scoring inside as well as showing off the jumper he has spent so many mornings and nights wresting with in an empty gym. Finishing the game shooting 9-for-15 from the floor, he connected on eight of his nine free throws and made two of his four attempts from beyond the arc.

To put those three-point makes and attempts into perspective, Acy attempted two and made one over the course of his entire rookie season with the Raptors. This is a new thing for him. As with everything else that has come Acy’s way, he has put in the work to get it there.

“It’s been a confidence thing ’cause I know I put the time in,” Acy said of his success from outside the paint. “It’s different when you’re working out in the gym, just you and your trainer. It’s a lot different when you get in the game. It’s all about rhythm, finding your stroke and knowing what you’ve been doing all this time when you’re getting up shots.”

Adding fuel to Acy’s fire was a first half filled with trash talk, courtesy of the Morris twins. Acy had a quick smile when he was asked about the battle of words with Phoenix’s big men and admitted he enjoys playing against people who challenge his intensity.

“That battle goes back to the Big 12,” he said. “We all came in together, into the Big 12. They went to Kansas and I was at Baylor, both in ’08. We’ve been knowing each other for a while and it’s always competitive when we play. And afterwards we give each other a big hug.”

While Acy was able to show off his offensive game against the Suns, he has spent the better part of the week accepting the challenge given to him by the coaches when the season ended: Working on his quickness and stepping out to guard smaller players around the perimeter. Despite the degree of difficulty of said challenge, Acy has embraced it.

“I like that tumble,” he said. “I like the challenge. I want to step out and guard a point guard if I have to and go down there and wrestle with Shaq if I have to. That’s just me.”

The attitude that’s “just him” is what makes his coaches appreciate working with him and his teammates thankful he’s on their squad. From the 37th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft to part of the sophomore trio on this Toronto team, Acy’s hard work and no-nonsense attitude has endeared him to everyone in the Raptors locker room. It’s hard to ignore the hustle, impossible to ignore his heart.

Wins and losses in Summer League mean little. It’s the progression and passion of the players attending that count. With Valanciunas cheering his team on from the bench on Saturday afternoon, Acy showed the Thomas and Mack gymnasium that win, lose or draw, they were getting as much of him as they could handle.

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