Celtics Fans Will Love Xavier Tillman for More Than Defense & Rebounding

Xavier Tillman

Getty Xavier Tillman will play a key role in the frontcourt for the Boston Celtics.

With a starting five as good as any in the NBA, the Boston Celtics weren’t expected to make a significant splash at the 2024 trade deadline.

Team president Brad Stevens made a minor move on Wednesday, February 7, when he struck a deal for Memphis Grizzlies 6-foot-8 power forward/center Xavier Tillman.

Tillman adds much-needed frontcourt depth to Boston, but Celtics fans will love the fire he brings, especially the recent beef he had with former Celtics guard Kyrie Irving.

Xavier Tillman Had a Recent Encounter With Kyrie Irving

Irving is the player Celtics fans love to hate. If former Detroit Pistons center Bill Laimbeer isn’t the most hated Celtics opponent in history, Irving is.

Irving spent two seasons with the Celtics after Boston acquired him from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a package involving fan-favorite Isaiah Thomas before the 2017-18 season.

During an initial meeting at TD Garden, Irving, now with the Dallas Mavericks, told Celtics season ticket holders that he’d re-sign with the team, drawing a round of applause. Two years later, Irving bolted for the Brooklyn Nets via free agency after a rough couple of seasons with the team.

Celtics fans have little love for Irving, who has been booed mercilessly whenever he returns to Boston as an opponent. They’re going to love Tillman for his exchange with Irving after Tillman blocked Irving’s shot last month.

The incident was posted all over X and captured Tillman telling Irving to “Get that (expletive) outta here” after blocking the shot.

Irving responded with, “You proud of that (expletive)? You can’t guard me.”

While at the free-throw line, the dialogue continued with Irving saying he “was built for this (expletive)” and saying Tillman couldn’t guard him.

Tillman offered a simple “Let’s do it” to end the conversation. Tillman and the Grizzlies went on to crush the Mavs 120-103 as he finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds in 27 minutes.

Al Horford Happy to See Tillman on Board in Boston

The Celtics could’ve done nothing at the deadline and probably still would have been the favorite to win the NBA championship. With the best starting five in the league, the Celtics, if they were going to do anything, were going to shore up their depth.

Boston’s frontcourt needed a little more stability, and Stevens helped solve that problem by offering two second-round picks and little-used Lamar Stevens to the Grizzlies for Tillman.

Starting center Kristaps Porzingis has battled nagging injuries to his calf and ankle all season, and veteran Al Horford is 37 years old and rarely plays both games taking place on back-to-back nights.

Luke Kornet has done a solid job off the bench as the third center, but Tillman gives Boston some added toughness inside. He’ll also help give Porzingis and Horford breathers.

Horford welcomed the addition of Tillman.

“It’s definitely a benefit,” Horford told the media on February 7. “We’re looking forward to having him here. He’s a guy who’s played on good teams and understands how to play. I look forward to playing with him and seeing how he is going to be able to help us down the stretch.”

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