Following Friday night’s tough 108-104 loss to the reigning champion Denver Nuggets, the Memphis Grizzlies officially find themselves boasting a winless record of 0-2 to start off their 2023-24 campaign.
Despite this unfortunate early turnout, however, hope is by no means lost for Taylor Jenkins’ club, as they’ve shown spunk, grit, and tremendous grind throughout both of their outings that has both fans and media pundits alike believing better days are ahead.
Of course, hardships were destined to come about during these early stages of the year what with the suspension of Ja Morant and the recent shelving of starting center Steven Adams.
That said, even with their struggles to enter the win column, Memphis’ decision-making skills when attempting to formulate a pivot plan for these respective absences have proven to be rather valiant, especially when it comes to the shakeup at the five spot with Xavier Tillman stepping into the primary role, for, according to star Jaren Jackson Jr., the fourth-year pro has been “amazing.”
Grizzlies’ Jaren Jackson Jr. dishes on Steven Adams replacement, Xavier Tillman
"“‘X’ is amazing, ‘X’ comes from that pedigree,” Jackson said of Tillman during his recent postgame press conference. “He’s played at a high level for a long time so I’m not shocked at any of that. ‘X’ has been in a lot of big time games in the league and he’s built for this. He’s great.”"
Though perhaps not the naturally intimidating big man specimen Adams has proven to be throughout his years in the association, Tillman has endeared himself amongst the Grizzlies faithful since being selected 35 overall back in the 2020 NBA Draft, and his play early on this season has only strengthened his lofty status as a beloved role player in Grind City.
While it may still be very early on in the year, the 24-year-old is off to a hot start, as he’s averaging a stellar 15.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 3.0 steals, and 1.5 blocks while shooting 48.0 percent shooting from the field.
As some have stressed ad nauseam since the devastating Adams news, Tillman does not appear to be the answer to the center woes for this title-hopeful Grizzlies team, and, in truth, this will likely wind up proving to be the case in a more obvious manner as time passes by.
That said, this by no means should take away from the fact that he has been playing extremely well during this infancy period of the year. Tillman deserves ample praise, and Jackson is leading the charge in giving it to him.