Quincy Acy picked up his third straight start at the power forward spot for the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night, replacing rookie Willie Cauley-Stein with the first team. The move has turned heads, but it seems to be working just fine for everyone.
Acy, 25, plays with an energy that sparks the entire team, which is why he has become a favorite of coach Karl.
“Q’s our energy bunny a little bit,” Karl said. “We put him in the lineup for energy and he gave it to us. Right now, I’m not going to take him out.”
This is nothing new for Acy. The veteran forward is carving out a niche in the league as a guy that brings his lunch pail to work each and every night. There isn’t a team in the league that wouldn’t take a hustle player like Acy.
“I embrace it,” Acy told CSN California. “If nobody else in the league does it, then it’s better for me, there’s more playing opportunities for me.”
Acy’s numbers don’t jump off the page, but he brings something to the table that goes beyond a typical box score. In his first two games as a starter, Acy went scoreless, but his impact on the game came through his hustle and defense. Against the Spurs, Acy dropped in 15-points on 6-of-9 shooting, showing that he has plenty more to give.
As for Cauley-Stein, he’s taken his demotion to the second unit in stride. The rookie big man has seen his minutes fluctuate all season long. Be it as a starter or off the bench, his confidence is at an all-time high.
“I don’t really care,” said the 7-footer. “I’m just so strong mentally right now, I’m in a good place where there’s not much anybody’s going to do to shake me or break me off what I’m doing.”
Cauley-Stein has taken the move in stride, but he’s not satisfied. After starting 15 straight games, Cauley-Stein has taken the opportunity with the second unit to showcase his expanding offensive repertoire and he’s showing a few new wrinkles to his game that are exciting to see.
“I get to just play free,” Cauley-Stein said of playing with the second unit. “Eventually the whole free game is about to come out. I’m getting to that point mentally where I just don’t care. That’s what it is.”
“You get to that point where you feel like you’re playing like it’s pick-up,” Cauley-Stein added. “That’s when it becomes powerful for you because you’re just playing, you’re not thinking about anything but instinct and stuff.”
The rookie big is averaging 6.5 points per game this season, but over his last seven games, he’s bumped that to 11.3 points on 70.6 percent shooting (36-of-51). He’s not just cleaning up off the glass or finishing the lob, he’s showing a little half hook in the lane and a very nice jumper on the baseline.
Cauley-Stein went to Kentucky during the All-Star break to work with Wildcats assistant coach Kenny Payne. He pushed himself hard trying to avoid losing the momentum he’s built. The rookie learned the hard way early in the season that it’s very easy to get out of NBA shape. He has no intentions of taking a step back physically.
“Coming out of the draft, there was a question as to whether he liked basketball, or had the desire,” assistant coach John Welch said on the Kings Insider Podcast. “He has a burning desire to be a great player and he learns things as quickly as any young player I’ve ever been around.”
“He’s just a sponge to want to get better and want to work on the things that are functional and he will use in the game,” Welch added.
Acy and Cauley-Stein are working well as a tandem alongside Cousins. They are the energizers and defensive specialists on this roster, but both have plenty more to offer. This has quickly become the position to watch for the Kings in the team’s final 26 games.