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How Atkinson’s belief changed Acy’s career

Brooklyn Nets v Indiana Pacers Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

It isn’t only that the Brooklyn Nets rescued Quincy Acy from potential NBA obscurity, but the confidence Kenny Atkinson bestows upon his newly converted stretch-4 is inspiring.

Acy would say so. It’s probably why he was hard on himself after putting up a donut in 17 minutes of play while the Nets defeated the Orlando Magic on Monday.

Atkinson spoke about that performance Wednesday before the Nets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves, continuing his theme of exuding confidence in Acy, who’s adjusting to his new role.

“I think it was weighing on him because he was such a competitor,” Atkinson said. “He wanted to play well. I think he was pressing a little. You know he had that one big game where he went (4-for-7 from three).

“I think that kind of helped him regain his confidence. We were kind of on him about too many shot fakes. Like ‘you have the green light to shoot that shot.’ We trust it, we’re going to keep trusting and trusting how hard he works, what a good shooter he is.”

That night, Acy redeemed himself, scoring eight points vs. Minnesota on 3-of-6 shooting, including 2-of-5 from three. He also handed out three assists in 17 minutes, the most he’s had since last March. It’s just another example of how the Nets — and particularly their head coach — value confidence-building. (It’s a far cry from Lionel Hollins!)

Acy showed some life to end December in the face of struggles he’s had this season. Overall, he’s shooting 34.7% from the field and 33.8% from three while posting 5.8 points in 18.5 minutes per game. The Baylor-alum and 37th overall draft choice in 2012 has keep a positive mental attitude in spite of that, which he credited in part to the coaching staff, led by Atkinson.

“Keeping my faith off the court is what really helped me. Just believing in myself – everybody keeps telling me to keep shooting, so I’ve got a good support system,” said Acy, showing his calm demeanor after Wednesday’s win. “It tells me what coach says. He wants me to keep shooting because he believes in me. It’s different for me but he says I could do it. For him to have that faith in me that says a lot, and the patience with me. A lot of people wouldn’t have that and a lot of people don’t have that.”

“Keep on shooting,” it’s the Atkinson way.

That wasn’t the way for Scott Drew, who’s coached at Baylor since 2003, including Acy’s 2008-2012 run in Waco.

“Don’t shoot it,” was the Drew way, according to Acy.

“Coach told me not to, I always believed I could,” said Acy, cracking a smile. “I still worked on it, went to the gym and worked on it, because I knew at some point I would have to make three’s if I wanted to continue playing basketball for the rest of my career.

“I just knew I was 6’7” and I played in the post. I wouldn’t be able to dunk on everybody forever,” he added.

It’s not that Acy hadn’t shot it well prior to join the Nets. His shooting percentages from deep weren’t that bad. He just didn’t shoot it that often. As a Net, he’s shooting more than three 3-pointers per game.

In his five years before joining Brooklyn, he averaged less than one per game. In the two seasons he played with Sacramento and New York, he shot 37-of-109, or 34 percent. And in his last D-League stint with Texas, just before the Nets signed him, he shot 39 percent.

Although Acy still has doubts on occasion when he lets go, Atkinson is there to help fight that lack of confidence.

“I mean, he tells me to shoot it. It’s kind of easy when you really think about it. Just shoot it, they get mad at me if I don’t,” Acy said of the coaching staff. “But I’m comfortable. Just figuring out when is the defense too close.

“Sometimes I pump fake when I didn’t have to pump fake and drive into some traffic I shouldn’t have drove into. It’s still just a process as far as figuring that out. But I think I’m figuring that out, it’s new for me and I embrace it.”

Atkinson in fact has said he and the Nets coaching staff have told him to cut down on those fakes.

It’s hard to remember that as the game of basketball continues to rapidly evolve, there still are a healthy number of strictly post-players, or grinder type of bigs in the game, especially at the high school and college levels. On his way out of the locker — as usual he’s one of the last to leave — Acy distributed some advice to those younger frontcourt players who may be in the same position he was years ago.

“If you believe you can (shoot), show it, work on it,” said Acy. “I used to go back to the gym every night and work on my three’s in college. I believed in myself and I knew one day my opportunity would come. Six years later, here it is.”