JUST moments after San Miguel Beer reached the PBA Governors Cup Finals opposite Alaska, Gabby Espinas fired the first warning shot against former Aces teammate Calvin Abueva.
"Kung marunong kang magbigay, dapat marunong kang tumanggap," said the Beermen forward in fighting words obviously addressed to Abueva.
Espinas makes no effort to hide that he and Abueva had a few skirmishes in practice back when they were together at Alaska, where the two used to form a bruising partnership in the frontline.
But the clashes are expected to get uglier now that the two have become opponents, in the finals stage no less, after Alaska traded away Espinas early in the season.
"Madalas din kami kami nagkakainitan nun sa practice, pero hindi naman yung todong darating sa suntukan," Espinas, a known enforcer since his college days at Philippine Christian University, said.
"Kasi mapipikon ka talaga kasi ang galing talaga eh. Hindi mo ma-stop, gusto mong i-stop-in. hindi mo magawa. Maasar ka lang talaga," added the San Miguel forward.
The 33-year old Olongapo City pride, however, made it clear that he will be all business inside the court.
"(Kung magkakaroon ng cheap shot-an), natural lang 'yun. Part of the game lang yun. Kaya nga sabi ko kung marunong kang magbigay, dapat marunong kang tumanggap," he said.
"Pero magkakaibigan naman kami, yung mga ganun naman sa loob lang ng court yun, pag sa labas na ng court, magkakaibigan na ulit," reiterated Espinas.
So what can the fans expect?
"Eh abangan niyo yung magkaibigan, ngayon magkalaban," he said with a laugh.
Espinas was also quick to admit that Abueva will be a handful for San Miguel defenders, but vowed to do his best to shackle 'The Beast.'
"Napipigilan ko siya sa practice, pero syempre practice lang yun eh. Iba sa game. Pero kung magdadag ako ng effort, kaya ko siguro yung ginagawa ko sa practice. Pero i-ta-try natin (i-stop si Abueva) yun lang naman trabaho ko dito eh. Dumepensa," he said.
"Wala muna akong opensa nito. Bonus na lang yung opensa, depensa muna ko kay Calvin."
Aside from Abueva, Espinas also wants to prove something to Alaska especially after Vic Manuel and Eric Menk bumped him off his usual place in the Aces' rotation before he was traded to GlobalPort.
Espinas, though, insisted he isn't bitter.
"Oo si Eric Menk ata at Vic Manuel ang kumuha ng oras ko dun. Pero okay lang yun. Professional tayo kasama sa trabaho natin yung mga ganun," he said. "Hindi ako bitter ha. It's all about competition.
"Friendly game lang naman 'yan. Competition lang naman sa loob ng court, pero outside, magkakaibigan pa rin. Sana maging maaksyon ang bantayan namin, kasi parehas naman may gustong i-prove, may gustong patunayan."
Watch VIDEO of interview with Espinas: