MANILA, Philippines – Meralco swingman Jared Dillinger has not exactly been shy about expressing his desire to face off against Barangay Ginebra in the 2017 PBA Governors' Cup finals.
Dillinger's enthusiasm is understandable: last year, he was unable to help the Bolts in their best-of-seven Finals series against the Gin Kings, having been sidelined by a hamstring injury. Ginebra went on to win in six games, with Justin Brownlee's memorable game-winner ending the Gin Kings' eight-year title drought.
This time around, though, he is finally healthy, and back to playing high-level basketball – he was named the league's Player of the Week for two straight weeks heading into the Finals. What's more – he got his wish of a rematch against Ginebra.
"I have honestly been dreaming about this," Dillinger told reporters Tuesday, in a press conference ahead of the best-of-seven finals.
Meralco made it to the finals before Ginebra did, having swept Star in three games in their semifinals series. The Gin Kings needed an extra game to dispatch the TNT KaTropa, and Dillinger was anxious the whole time as he waited for the result of the other semifinals match-up.
"No disrespect to the other teams, but if you say Talk 'N Text beat Ginebra, and we had to play Talk 'N Text, I wouldn't be as satisfied if we won," Dillinger admitted.
Nothing less than a rematch would satisfy Dillinger, who said on Twitter that he has been "waiting too damn long" for a chance to play Ginebra in the finals. For him, though, it will not just be about possibly avenging last season's loss; it is also a chance to redeem himself for missing that series entirely.
"Just the way they beat us, and I couldn't be there to help the team… it was really tough on me," said Dillinger.
"It's just so surreal right now. I can't wait to just take it to those guys," he added. "Like, that's all I think about."
The finals rematch also gives Dillinger a chance to take his rivalry with Ginebra's Joe Devance out of the social media sphere and into the court. The two have engaged in good-natured ribbing throughout the lead-up to the series, and Dillinger even proclaimed in Tuesday's presser that he has no love lost for Devance.
"Do I like Joe? No, I don't," said Dillinger. "But you know, we try to keep it classy as much as we can."
"I'm sure he's going to hit me a couple of times in the game, and I'm gonna hit him back, so y'all better believe that it's going to be a war," he promised.
Dillinger further guaranteed that once the ball goes up in Game 1, the jokes will stop.
"It's all fun and games, and we're laughing (right now)," he said. "But in the heat of the moment, in the game, when money is on the line, legacies on the line, championship on the line, it's going to bethat."
"It's going to be a lot of blood out there, I promise you," he added. "It's going to be a great series."
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