The Daredevil is finally back.
After almost three months of being away from competitive basketball, forward Jared Dillinger has finally suited up for the Meralco Bolts.
Looking back, the Filipino-Hawaiian wingman sustained a right hamstring injury last October 2016 during Game Two of their Governor’s Cup Finals match-up against Barangay Ginebra.
That injury of Dillinger proved to be a big blow for the Bolts. After bowing out to Ginebra in six games during last season’s finale, the Bolts struggled this conference — going 2-7 without him.
“As I’ve said the entire of conference, with Jimmy [Alapag] retiring and JD out for almost the entire conference, we lost two of our top four players. If we were a deep team like San Miguel, maybe we can withstand that but we are not,” said Meralco head coach Norman Black.
Dillinger actually played in their opening game of the 2017 Philippine Cup last November 27, but he hardly graced the floor, playing just nine minutes and finishing with just two points.
Friday evening at the Cuneta Astrodome, a healthy Dillinger has returned. And his return came in marvelous fashion as Meralco defeated the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 92-82.
Upon his comeback, Dillinger, who was in tonight’s starting five, made a decent contribution for Meralco as he finished with three markers, five rebounds, and two assists in 27 minutes of action.
“It’s just my second game in maybe three-and-a-half months, [and] to be honest I was kind of shocked that coach put me in the starting line up.
“I haven’t had too much time getting my feet wet and I was practicing with the team maybe a couple days, but I’m happy he put me in the fire and put me in that situation to try to help the team the best way I can,” said Dillinger regarding his return.
But despite tonight’s satisfactory showing, Dillinger admitted that he is not at 100 percent yet, lamenting that it will still take time for him to fully recover and be back at his old self.
“If I was 21 maybe I’ll be okay next game, but I’m not 21 anymore. I got to trust the process. Obviously tonight I had zero legs out there. I think I played for 30 minutes.
“It will take some time to get my legs, my rhythm back. It’s gonna take some time to get it together,” pointed the 32-year-old.
Nevertheless, the second pick of the 2008 Drafte still remained positive, as Meralco yielded an upset axe against a top team in RoS and kept their shimmering playoff hopes alive.
“Happy that we won, that’s for sure. I guess we try to focus on the next game and try to salvage what we can in this conference and try to get into some momentum next conference,” said the eight-year veteran.
Dillinger also spoke of Meralco’s playoff chances, which, though appearing bleak, still flashes a glimmer of hope as long as other teams become hounded with losses.
“We are not in control of our destiny anymore. Hopefully we can beat Star but we need some help from other teams to lose,” the former National Team member remarked about their chances.
And aside from the other teams’ “help”, Dillinger is also hopeful of the help they will garner from the young players they have in the roster as they approach their final games.
“We got lot of young guys on the team, Ed [Daquioag], Anjo [Caram], Jonathan [Grey], they are great players, they just need a little bit more time to grow and learn from the older guys,” Dillinger said.
The Bolts’ chances of making it to the conference playoffs obviously looks slim. But with Dillinger now back in the fold, the next conferences might see them contend once more.