MANILA, Philippines – Already a two-time Best Import in the PBA, Allen Durham will settle for nothing less than a championship in his fourth stint with the Meralco Bolts in the Governors' Cup.
Durham won the individual plum in 2016 and 2017, and led the Bolts to the finals in both years. Both times, however, they bowed to Justin Brownlee and the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings.
They missed out on a third straight finals trip in 2018, but are back in the finals of the 2019 edition. Durham, once again, is a candidate for the Best Import award after averaging 30.9 points, 15.2 rebounds, and 6.5 assists for the Bolts, but his eye is on the bigger trophy.
"Everybody wanna be the best," said the 31-year-old big man. "Everybody wanna win that championship, everybody wanna be crowned, that one team standing."
This, Durham said, is what keeps him motivated and what keeps him coming back to Meralco.
"More than any other personal achievement or stuff like that, it's to win with the guys that I've been fighting with," he stressed.
He and the Bolts have another chance to be the last team standing, but to do so, they have to take down the team that beat them in the 2016 and 2017 PBA Governors' Cup finals – the Gin Kings.
Both series were extremely close – Ginebra won in 2016 via a Justin Brownlee buzzer beater in Game 6, then held off Meralco in Game 7 in 2017.
"Both of those finals were a missed play here and there, came down to the end, you know. It really could've went any way," Durham noted.
"But no matter who you're playing, when you're playing, if you're in the finals, you wanna win. No matter who it is," he added. "So, we got another opportunity to kinda correct it and steer the ship in the right direction."
While the highly anticipated match-up between Durham and Brownlee will likely decide the series, the Meralco import said the contributions of their locals cannot be underestimated. He lauded the addition of Raymond Almazan and Allein Maliksi, as well as rookie Bong Quinto and back-up guard Nard Pinto.
"I think we're just a better all-around team," said Durham.
Also crucial for Meralco is Durham's own improvement into an all-around offensive threat, as the "Hulk" has developed a reliable three-point shot. The import is making 38.8% of his attempts from beyond the arc this conference.
"I think that helps stretch their defense out a little bit, and it's gonna be harder for their big men if I'm hitting that shot. So if I can take the shot, hit the shot consistently, I think we got a good opportunity," said Durham.
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