Since Day 1 of the PBA Governors' Cup, Allen Durham has made known his intention to return to the finals and win it all.
Now that the reigning Best Import has accomplished the first part of his mission by getting back in the title series, he's looking to complete the job.
"Last year that was my first time being in the finals in my pro career, like some of the other guys," Durham told ABS-CBN News during Meralco's practice at the company gym in Pasig city Tuesday. "This year I know what to expect, we know what to expect."
One thing that shouldn't surprise Durham and his crew is the hostile environment that will greet them when they take on Barangay Ginebra.
Game 1 will be at Quezon Convention Center in Lucena city on Friday. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.
The "kabs," short for "kabarangay," will be stoked for this series and they can get under one's skin if a player isn't built to handle their rabid and occasional rowdy nature.
Ginebra can be physical on defense, too, and the prevailing yet ultimately unproven notion that calls skew toward its favor can throw an opposing team off its game if too much thought is given to it.
For Durham, those elements are merely noise -- literally and metaphorically.
"We just got to stay calm, not overreact because it's a long game, a long series. We got to make sure we just never get too high or never to get low on any other calls, or any other plays and just stay in our lane and play Meralco basketball," he said.
Glen Rice Jr.'s ejection in Game 4 of the Ginebra-TNT semifinals series continues to be a hot topic on social media, and some wonder whether Durham could be susceptible to a similar meltdown.
Whatever triggered Rice to snap is all speculative, and judging from Durham's temperament the Meralco reinforcement appears better suited to handle a highly charged atmosphere.
"I'm sure emotions will be high. We got to be sure to realize that, not just one player is going to win or lose the game for us," Durham said.
Meralco assistant coach Ronnie Magsanoc said Durham's experience playing in the PBA works to his advantage, having seen action previously with Barako Bull in 2014 and last year with Meralco.
The 2016 Governors' Cup finals proved to be a litmus for Durham; he wouldn't have returned if he wasn't drawn to the challenge.
"More or less mayroon na siyang feel," Magsanoc said, adding that the coaching staff talks to everyone, not just Durham, about keeping even-keeled in what's expected to be an intense series.
Durham's well-rounded game -- he's the only player averaging at least 20 points and 20 rebounds, on top of leading all imports in assists -- has made him the favorite to win a second Best Import trophy.
But he's past personal glory now. If his contributions don't translate to a championship, such an award would be hollow.
"Obviously Ginebra is a good team. They're a great team actually so we got our work ahead of us but we like our chances," Durham said.
"For me, it's not a rivalry. As a competitor, you want to compete against the best. And that's what Ginebra is -- good coach, good import, good franchise. That's what it is more than a rivalry."
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)