Remember Renaldo Balkman? Yeah, the one who choked San Miguel Beer’s Arwind Santos for which he received a lifetime ban from the Philippine Basketball Association. He has been making the most of chance at playing for a Philippine team he got.
At the break of dawn of the first day of this year, this writer was one of the surprised when sports pages of several Philippine media outfits reported that Balkman and Ginebra’s Justin Brownlee will hop on to a struggling Tanduay-Alab Pilipinas, owners of a woeful 1-3 win-loss record as 2017 closes, to replace Ivan Johnson and Reggie Okosa as its world imports in the ASEAN Basketball League.
I was like “Brownlee was a very fine choice, but why bring this problem that could blow Alab’s chances of advancing in the tournament because of his history?”
Of course, that rant lasted only a few seconds as I was aware Balkman is an NBA caliber player and he has done nothing to be denied another shot at playing in the Philippines again.
For the record, Balkman previously played for the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets, played in the FIBA World Cup for Puerto Rico, part of the team that outlasted Gilas, and was leading the Petron Blaze Boosters to a PBA-leading win-loss record before booted out.
I was under the impression that it was his bad behavior that did him; and if he can correct it, he would be a successful component of a team. Without the attitude, he should be a multiple title holder when playing in leagues like the PBA or the ABL.
Balkman did nothing but straighten out his act so far on this new lease of life.
Firstly, his partnership with Brownlee injected a fresh spark in the campaign of Tanduay-Alab.
Him and Brownlee led Alab to two straight wins, one each over the Westports Malaysia Dragons and the Singapore Slingers, that evened their record.
They dropped a rematch with the Slingers last January 10 to settle to their current 3-4 mark. The tournament is still in its early stages to predict whether they advance to the playoffs or not.
Balkman is averaging 22.3 points on 50% shooting, to go along with 10.3 rebounds, 3.3 steals and 3 blocks a game for his three-game stint.
Secondly, and maybe more importantly, he seems to be valuing the chance he is given to redeem himself from the infamous PBA incident and earn the admirations of the Pinoy fans.
Even before landing on Philippine soil, his agent Sheryl Reyes, insinuated Balkman’s expressed interest in redeeming himself after his 2013 PBA meltdown.
He made good on his word. He and Santos were reported to have a mutual interest of burying the hatchet over lunch. They even would play again in the same team if Balkman is granted again access to sign and play for a PBA team.
Thirdly, he should be the better import than the one he replaced, at least according to the visual images he provided so far.
Ironically, Johnson was once also a recipient of a P250,000 fine and lifetime ban, later reduced to P150,000 and one-year suspension, from the PBA.
We seldom hear from anything from Johnson about his playing again in the Philippines and his reconnection to the Filipino fans after the ban. Well, Johnson is maybe of different personal nature so his silence should not be taken against him.
It’s just that Balkman made more visible his desire to straighten out things after a epically bad incident.
He is also noticeably barking while on the floor. Not at the refs, but at teammates on the floor, at Brownlee, towards the Alab bench. If he is saying and communicating the right things to the team, this trait is a good quality for the leader of this team in order for them to go deep in the playoffs.
Johnson did not show he possess this one.
In the statistic side, Johnson averaged 22.6 points on 43.6% shooting, to go along with 10.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.3 blocks a game, also in three games.
Basically, the 6’8” Balkman is replicating the production of also the 6’8” Johnson, making them just about even in this department.
Taking the holistic picture, the intangibles make Balkman an upgrade over Johnson.
In the meantime, the personal aspects of this matter are of Balkman’s, and Johnson’s, concern and should not be ours.
As long as Tanduay-Alab gets the wins and no untoward incident happens, Pinoy fans should be feeling good with the switch.
By: ARMANDO M. BOLISLIS