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Quincy Acy and the tough guy myth

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Believe it or not, fighting and losing does not make you a real Knick.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Raise your hands if you predicted on Christmas Eve that Quincy Acy would be the only Knick trending on Twitter at the end of the following day's five-game NBA bonanza:

Ah, to be invited into the mighty Pantheon of names like "Wade," "Lebron" and "FloBron."

Even if you were fortunate enough to miss New York's 102-91 loss to the Washington Wizards on Thursday afternoon, you probably could have guessed what led to Acy's nationwide exposure. The sacred law of the 2014-15 Knicks dictates that a player can only receive attention for doing something terrible and/or stupid. And if you've watched Acy play even once during his three-year NBA career, you know the dude is only capable of garnering such attention through fisticuffs.

Sure enough, we had this happen in the fourth quarter :

Wizards point guard John Wall is quite the basketball player. The Knicks have no one capable of staying in front of him. But they are beginning to show signs of life, cutting an 18-point deficit down to 11 with an 8-1 run. There are just under six minutes remaining; the game is not quite over, but they need more stops. Wall probes his way into the paint, and Acy fouls him by shoving his hands into Wall's face. Wall shoves back, Acy throws a punch/forearm/whatever. Wall gets a technical, Acy gets ejected. The Wizards get two free throws and the ball. The Knicks' slim chance of a comeback are gone.

I come here not to bury Quincy Acy (completely), but to praise him (kind of). No, not for Thursday's donnybrook -- that was irredeemably stupid, and he deserves the one-game suspension handed down by the league -- but because, prior to the Christmas Day Massacre, the guy had been one of the only Knicks to actually exceed my expectations of him.

Pretty much any way you slice it, Acy has been the third best big on New York's roster, behind Amar'e Stoudemire and Cole Aldrich. He has been pressed into playing far too many minutes than he should, and he generally hasn't embarrassed himself...or at least not as much as Jason Smith and Samuel Dalembert have (per Basketball-Reference):

He hasn't done anything particularly well, but he takes few shots, hits over 50 percent of the shots he does take, rebounds a bit (though he's overrated in this regard), and plays passable defense (again, overrated).

But here's the thing: Quincy Acy is not an energy guy, or a tough guy, or whatever abstract title is usually given to him. Yes, he plays with energy. Yes, he fouls hard. But I seriously doubt his teammates are inspired by his demonstrative missed rebounds and botched dunks, and the only players who get riled up by Acy's fouls are the opponents.

Thursday's incident was a perfect example. Fans of "real, old-school basketball" had a field day ripping on the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Cole Aldrich for not having their teammate's back. First of all, Melo did come over and drag Acy away. So what if he and Aldrich turned away in disgust initially? It was a disgusting, idiotic act, one that essentially ending any chance of a Knicks comeback.

At least Acy acts like he gives a damn. Punching John Wall in the face is acting like you give a damn? Shoving injured teammates on the way to the locker room is acting like you give a damn?

There is a large segment of Knicks fans who grew up romanticizing a certain kind of player: guys like Charles Oakley and Kurt Thomas -- bad-ass hombres who skirted the line between tough and dirty, and who were not afraid to throw hands if the situation called for it. Those are the guys I grew up watching. I still find joy in a good, old-fashioned 82-80 slug-fest, and I appreciate a hard foul to stop a layup.

Here's what I cannot abide -- Quincy Acy is not a throwback to those guys. Oakley was a tremendous basketball player. Kurt Thomas was a tremendous basketball player. They were as skilled and smart as the were tough. They did what it took to win.

Romanticizing fights and the hard fouls over quality basketball is a disturbing trait among many Knicks fans. Charles Oakley once scored 26 points and pulled down 17 rebounds in the deciding game a playoff series against the Bird-McHale Celtics at Boston Garden. Kurt Thomas willed an underhanded Knicks team to victory in Utah at 40 years old and then walked off into the sunset like freakin' John Wayne:

Quincy Acy does not remind me of those players -- not one little bit. He could one day develop into a competent reserve big, but incidents like the Christmas Day fight do not add to his value; they make him expendable.