HE may be physically present at Meralco, but Jared Dillinger is obviously not yet in game shape.
Playing in his first practice game with his new team, Dillinger struggled trying to find his way in the system of the Bolts, who acquired his services via a three-team trade last June.
“I was getting stuck in the air a couple of times, just got to find that rhythm back,” Dillinger bared to Spin.ph. “My legs, everything felt cold.”
“It’s just kinda grinding through the initial stages of the whole shock of coming back and playing organized basketball. But it definitely feels good,” he added.
Here's a video of Dillinger's first practice with the Bolts:
The former Texter, though, vowed to be one hundred ready when he makes his debut for Meralco on Wednesday opposite Barako Bull at the start of the PBA Governors Cup quarterfinals.
“I am a hundred percent now. I’ll just get my timing and get to know my teammates and make sure I play on the same page with them,” said the former Gilas Pilipinas wingman.
Dillinger took extra thirty minutes of practice to improve his shooting.
“I need to do this. This is the best way to prepare myself. I won’t relax,” said Dillinger, who now sports a long hair and beard, prompting teammates to call him `Wolverine’ after the popular character from the X-Men saga.
“I am happy to be here at Meralco, the guys all welcomed me,” he added.
Dillinger stressed adjusting to Meralco’s system from Talk n’ Text will not be much of a problem as both MVP-owned teams employ the same dribble-drive offense.
The 6-foot-5 guard said it’s up to the coaching staff to decide whether to gamble on him in an all-important game against Barako Bull, which needs to beat Meralco twice to advance to the semifinals.
“I’ll be ready by Wednesday. If not, coach can just put me on the bench and get someone else to play for me,” Dillinger said.
“But you know, we have so many scorers in this team. I don’t need to do much. I can just run and play defense. It’s not gonna make any difference,” he added. “As long as I go there, run hard and play defense, it’ll be alright.”
Coach Ryan Gregorio said he’s happy with what he saw from Dillinger.
“I think he is much stronger now than before he was injured,” said Gregorio, who, like others, was just as concerned with Dillinger’s game shape.
“I was pleasantly surprised though with his fitness. He hasn’t played in five months, we just have to look closely at his condition. But his strength and basketball IQ, he hasn’t lost a step in that,” added the eloquent coach.
Gregorio guaranteed Dillinger will be immediately inserted in the Bolts’ rotation.
“Our Barako game will be a very big game for us, but we will try him (Dillinger) probably in the first or second quarter and see how he plays along with other players,” said the Meralco coach.
“But we’re not gonna take chances, we want to make sure we finish it in just one game,” he added.