It is said that even in the desert a flower can bloom, and the wasteland that was the New York Knicks' blowout loss to the Charlotte Hornets did produce a rose of such fragile beauty that it drove the MSG faithful into fits of ecstasy.
I am referring, of course, to the exploits of Quincy Acy, gentleman basketballer and the darkest of dark-horse MVP candidates:
If you missed the game (and I can't exactly blame you for that), the Bearded Bomber made it rain from downtown, dropping three from beyond the arc en route to a 16-point fourth quarter.
Acy attempted more three-pointers in the fourth quarter on Saturday afternoon (four) than he did in the 28 games he played prior to his suspension for his role in the Christmas Day ruckus (three).
That suspension seems to have been a turning point for Acy. With Amar'e Stoudemire out of the lineup and Samuel Dalembert exiled to the Phantom Zone, his minutes have obviously jumped up quite a bit. But what has really been surprising is his scoring, which has not only doubled in nearly every category, but has been remarkably efficient:
Believe it or not, this might be something more than garbage-time big-man YOLO chucking. Could Quincy be Acy shooting threes -gasp- by design?
Acy says the coaching staff encourages him to stretch his range out to 3 and that he worked on it all summer.— charlie widdoes (@charliewiddoes) January 10, 2015
Indeed, the Sacramento Bee reported that Acy -- then a member of the Kings -- had been working on his three-point shooting during the summer before he was traded to New York. He hoisted eight threes during the Kings' Summer League run. With the Knicks completely devoid of scoring options, it would appear that Acy is being given the green light from downtown.
And let me be the first to welcome our new Steve Novak! There is literally zero downside to letting Acy shoot threes at this point in the season. The time has come to get truly weird.
Acy's performance this season has fascinated me -- the guy is continually on the cusp of being a useful player, but can't quite get over the hump. I've already written about how his reputation as an "energy guy" is overrated, but he has legitimately helped the team on defense. Acy has been valuable to the Knicks, if only because the team has been astonishingly inefficient at allowing points when he's not on the floor -- believe it or not, they're a bit better than the league average when he plays. According to Kevin Pelton's real plus/minus ratings (which get a bit screwy with their forward position designations), Acy has been one of the most valuable defensive forwards in the league:
His real problem is on the offensive end, where he has been a total non-factor. He's mediocre offensive rebounder, he can't catch a pass on the move or in traffic, and he's not a good passer. He just sort of hangs out, trying not to get in the way. His bipolar impact is reflected in his on/off numbers:
- On court: 96.2 O-Rtg, 104.7 D-Rtg
- Off court: 100.9 O-Rtg, 112.1 D-Rtg
But there is hope. While Acy's jumper is far from elegant -- he rarely shoots in rhythm and his feet are splayed out as if he's playing on a frozen pond -- it has been effective. He's shooting 41.5 percent on his jumpers, better than the Wizard of the Mid-Range himself, Mr. Jason Smith (39.8 percent), and he's hitting 47 percent of his shots off the catch.
Acy is still a bit hesitant about his role and his positioning in the Triangle, but there are ample opportunities to get him threes off the catch.
Check out this interesting example from the Portland game:
Jason Smith sets a high screen for Shane Larkin on the weak side and rolls to the basket, while Acy moves to the spot vacated by Jah to set a second screen. There's virtually zero chance that the Larkin will pass to Jah as the roll man, but his man does his due diligence and sags into the paint, while Larkin's man ices the Acy pick and forces Larkin toward the baseline.
The play is successful because Acy's defender does what most people do -- he ignores Acy at the three-point line. Instead he chases after Larkin for the double team. For the Knicks' offense to succeed, Acy has to be able to punish defenses for him alone...and this time, he does.
There is an opportunity here for all kinds of floor-spreading goodness -- not only with Quincy Acy, but with Travis Wear, who has also begun shooting threes. Given their lack of proven finishers right now, the Knicks almost have to play this way to score.
As a bonus, marginal young players like Acy have a chance to hone a new skill -- one that is critical to his development as an legitimate two-way option.
So please, unleash the Bearded Bomber. At this point, neither Acy nor the Knicks have anything to lose.