Jared Dillinger was watching from the sidelines as Ginebra players ran the team's offensive schemes on Monday morning at the Upper Deck Gym. Dillinger was trying to learn how things go from that vantage point since he is still recovering from a recurring quad injury.
In between, the new Gin King talked with Sol Mercado. He was picking the brains of the veteran Ginebra guard whom he engaged in an entertaining Twitter exchange a couple of years ago.
Before they wrapped up practice, Dillinger introduced himself to the team in midcourt, surrounded by the players he went up against in two hotly-contested Governors Cup Finals. It was a sight no one imagined happening. Not even Dillinger.
"It's funny how life works, right? How I kinda flipped the script, now I'm with Ginebra. In situations like this I just gotta smile, take it all in, and enjoy the ride," he said.
Dillinger expressed his gratitude to the MVP Group, adding he will cherish the happy memories. But he is now thrilled to play for his new team that is defending the PBA Commissioner's Cup crown.
"I'm excited, starting this new chapter. I know most of the guys in the team. I still went out to get used to the coaches' philosophies and getting acquainted to the system. But it's still a little bit shocking so you know, I came to practice here this morning," he said.
"Guys welcomed me with open arms. I got to talk to coach (Tim) Cone and the coaching staff a little bit. They're gonna let me take my time, make sure I get healthy more importantly. I'm taking it one day at a time."
Fans will have to wait a little longer, though, before seeing Dillinger don the Ginebra jersey. There's no timetable yet for his return. The 35-year-old swingman said they are making sure he is at full strength when he debuts for the crowd favorite.
"I'm about four weeks in into my rehab," said Dillinger, who flew to Ohio before the conference to work with the Cleveland Cavaliers' doctor. "They gave me treatment, they gave me a good program to follow. So far, so good.
"I feel really good but I'm not 20 years old anymore. So I have to make sure to take my time, go to the right steps before you know, getting back on the court."
Since posting a controversial tweet in 2017, Dillinger has been public enemy no. 1 for the Ginebra faithful. But even players like Joe Devance and Mercado said it was all fun and games. Dillinger shared the same sentiment.
"It was all in good fun. We like to mess around a lot. And after we started going at each other a little bit over the internet, it kinda turn into its own beast. It just turned into something crazy than what we really expected and it just so happened we're gonna match up with each other in the finals. It just magnified everything," he said.
"So I played that card. I played that role for a little bit. It was fun playing in that role for a little bit against these guys but it was all fun."
The Gin Kings welcomed him with open arms on Monday, and they are hopeful the fans will do the same.
"I hope the Ginebra fans out there will learn to love me slowly by just seeing how I play with my heart on my sleeve. The energy and emotion that I like to bring when I play the game. Just take it from there," he said.