FOR Jared Dillinger, it’s the perfect time to finally redeem himself.
The big Fil-Am guard suits up in his first finals for Meralco in the PBA Governors Cup after totally missing last year’s title series against Barangay Ginebra owing to a pulled hamstring injury.
A year after, here he is fully healthy and ready whichever way he can to help the Bolts win their first ever championship in Asia’s first ever play for pay league.
“Physically, I’m OK,” he said after the Bolts wrapped up their best-of-five semis duel against the Star Hotshots following a three-game sweep of the series.
For a while, the ghost of the past haunted JD especially when the series clinching Game Three against the Hotshots went into overtime. It was also in the semis last year against TnT Katropa when the 33-year-old native of South Dakota went down with a pulled hamstring.
“During overtime, I just kept telling myself, ‘don’t get injured, just don’t get injured’ where you can’t play in the finals. That’s the only thing going to my head,” said Dillinger, who had 10 points, three rebounds, and two assists in the 91-88 Meralco win.
For finishing off the semis earlier than expected, the Bolts get a week-long rest before the start of the best-of-seven finals against the winner of the Barangay Ginebra-TnT Katropa semis series.
Dillinger certainly welcomes the break as the team had played eight straight games in the last 12 days since the playoff began two weeks ago.
“I’m a little bit tired. I’m not 21 anymore,” he said in between smile. “But physically I’m ok. The team just needs some rest,” he said.
It doesn’t take one to be a psychic to fathom the team Dillinger is hoping the Bolts will meet in the best-of-seven title series.
“If you ask me, I hope we play Ginebra because they beat us last year and I didn’t get a chance to go out there and help the team,” said Dillinger, who watched on the sidelines as the Bolts lost to the Kings in six games last season, including the dramatic three-point basket by import Justin Brownlee at the buzzer of Game Six to win the title.
It also didn’t help any that Dillinger got the ire of Ginebra fans when he took to twitter about how he ‘can’t stand those guys (Kings),’ shortly after Meralco failed to get a semifinal match-up with the Kings during the Commissioner’s Cup playoffs following its loss to TnT.
His controversial remark got him involved in a friendly banter with Ginebra big men Joe Devance and Greg Slaughter in a series of exchange which the fans thought otherwise.
Dillinger just shrugged off his action that has easily earned him ‘Public Enemy No. 1’ among fans of the league’s most popular ballclub.
“They love their teams, they have their opinions, but I have my (own) opinions, too,” he added.
What’s most important for Dillinger now is the Bolts are back in the finals and will have another opportunity to win a championship and bury the sad memory of last year’s failed title bid.
“Now this year I’m healthy, and we wouldn’t want it any other way but to play with those guys, get a chance to get some revenge against them,” he said.
The Finals is to start on Oct. 13 in Lucena City.