When the Boston Celtics acquired versatile forward Xavier Tillman from the Memphis Grizzlies ahead of the NBA trade deadline, the 25-year-old had an instant thought.
“I have the opportunity to win a championship,” Tillman told Abby Chin, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s pregame coverage. “Looking a the record, they have only lost 12 to 13 games. I mean that’s impressive. It’s really impressive coming from the Grizzlies, we had lost 30 by then.
“This is a winning organization, consistently going to the playoffs and making a deep run. My job is to learn the culture as fast as I can and try and help us get over the hump.”
Tillman was ruled out for the Celtics’ matchup against the Washington Wizards at TD Garden on Friday night but had the opportunity to experience the Boston crowd when the Grizzlies were in town on Sunday.
Former Celtics guard Marcus Smart made his return to Boston but didn’t play due to a finger injury. Smart was honored with a video tribute in the first quarter, and Tillman said he had never seen anything like that.
“That experience was kind of crazy because it was like every time out the crowd was having a standing ovation,” Tillman said. “So, to see the love and acknowledgment that they had for everything that he did for the city was pretty awesome.”
Tillman said Smart gave him some insight to the Celtics fans after they learned of the trade on Tuesday.
“He said it was very similar to Memphis and that fact that grit and grind is what they love and appreciate,” Tillman said. “‘If you’re willing to come in here, and you’re willing to work and you’re willing to hustle and dive on the floor and stuff like that, they’re going to love you. So, hustle.'”
Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said toughness and being a good defender is what Tillman brings to Boston as they get set for the postseason run. Tillman can’t wait to help out his new teammates.
“I’m very excited. That’s what I pride myself on is being able to guard multiple positions, being able to communicate on the defensive end and know where I’m supposed to be and being able to help my teammates out as well,” Tillman said. “I’m excited to bring that to this team for sure.”
Boston has not given any indication as to when Tillman will make his Celtics debut.