Meralco Bolts forward Jared Dillinger was not even supposed to play in the team's quarterfinal match in the PBA Governors' Cup on Wednesday. But due to shortage in personnel, head coach Norman Black had no choice but to field him in for a few minutes.
With Cliff Hodge and Ranidel de Ocampo down with injuries, Black called up Dillinger, who has just recuperated from a partial tear on his quad and bone spurs procedure on his right foot.
The 6-foot-4 cager finished with two points, a rebound, and five fouls in a little over seven minutes of play.
Dillinger, who only suited up to get a feel of the game, admitted there was still pain. But he had to do whatever he could to help the Bolts force a rubber match against the twice-to-beat Phoenix.
"Yeah (there's still pain), you saw out there that I tried to go for a layup, but I'm pretty sure that I jumped two inches off the ground, so my legs aren't there yet, but my heart is there, my fighting spirit is there so we got guys like Cliff breaking his back out there so I should break my legs if he's going to break his back so we'll do everything we can to get the win," said Dillinger.
Black said he needed someone to tame Phoenix energy guy Calvin Abueva. Abueva, though, still went on to post 18 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks, and two assists in a 74-90 loss to Meralco.
The veteran tactician was glad nonetheless with Dillinger's performance as far as defense is concerned.
"I was running out of players to guard Calvin Abueva. Calvin is a real problem as far as how you can defend him, and there are only certain types of players who can defend him because he's so physical," he said.
"You don't match him physicality for physicality, you have no chance against Calvin. That's why I used JD (Dillinger) tonight. He's a pretty physical player defensively."
When told about what his mentor said, the Filipino-American forward was a bit surprised.
"He said that? I think he's being nice. I'm pretty sure I got like five fouls in like six minutes right?" Dillinger said after the match at the Cuneta Astrodome.
"So it was funny like before the game, I was telling all the guys if I'm going to get in there, I'm just going to foul. Obviously, I didn't think that I was going to foul that much but you know again, the guys just responded well. Cliff went down, and everyone came together and obviously AD (Allen Durham) took over and we got the win."
Knowing he can get quality minutes from Dillinger, Black said he will definitely play the 34-year-old cager on Friday as the team eyes a semifinal berth in the season-ending conference where they wound up as bridesmaids in its last two editions.
"Yes, now that I've seen he can play, he will play more. I wasn't really sure if he could play, I didn't want to force him in this situation because he hasn't played the whole conference," the American coach said. "But he showed me that he can get out there and give me a few minutes. So definitely he'll show up on Friday."
Dillinger is ready.
"I already know that he's going to throw my ass back there. But in all seriousness, you just got to be ready when you get out there. I'm not 25 anymore, so it's taking a little bit longer to get activated and to get my legs fired but I'll do all that I can to just help the guys out in any way that I can so I'm just going to play defense," he said.