Import misadventure for San Miguel?
Import Troy Gillenwater was in hot water and mighty San Miguel Beer found itself stewing in a totally unexpected 0-2 hole in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Sunday.
In an outburst that somehow evoked memories of the Renaldo Balkman episode in 2013, Gillenwater deliberately bumped into referee Rey Yante while rushing to the bench after getting whistled for a foul and was ejected with two minutes and 29 seconds left in the second quarter of SMB’s match against Rain or Shine.
The defending champion Beermen, fresh from a record fourth consecutive Philippine Cup title and bidding to remain on track for another shot at a championship Grand Slam, managed to stay on top, even leading by 17 points at 66-49 early in the third quarter until foul trouble slowed down the 6-foot-10 June Mar Fajardo.
Fajardo eventually fouled out and the Elasto Painters, getting key hits from Chris Tiu and Raymond Almazan, won in overtime, 123-119, to regain the tournament lead at 4-1 in a big comeback from a 104-96 upset from Columbian Dyip.
Alaska earlier clobbered last year’s runner-up TNT KaTropa, 110-100, to tie its victim at 3-1, the same record of idle Meralco which dealt SMB its first loss, 93-85, last May 9.
Columbian, the old whipping squad as Mahindra, is the tournament’s revelation so far with a fifth-best 3-2 slate. GlobalPort and Phoenix stood at 2-2 followed by Magnolia (1-1), Barangay Ginebra (1-2) and NLEX (1-3).
Unlike new cellar-dweller Blackwater, which is winless in five games, SMB remains a solid choice to advance to the next round with the tournament using the same format as the Philippine Cup where the best eight teams after the single round of eliminations make it to the quarterfinals and the top two squads enjoying a twice-to-beat bonus against the last two qualifiers.
But Gillenwater’s unsportsmanlike display is definitely a source of concern for the Beermen, who were forced to tap the 29-year-old veteran overseas campaigner when their old import, Charles Rhodes, couldn’t rejoin them due to a previous commitment in South Korea.
It came just when the Beermen have erased the memory of Balkman’s own rampage against the referees while playing for Petron, which was then representing the San Miguel Corp. franchise in the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup.
The Puerto Rican import not only refused to be pacified by officials and his teammates then but even choked Arwind Santos. He was later slapped a lifetime ban which the PBA lifted only recently while Balkman was spearheading San Miguel Alab Pilipinas to victory in the Asean Basketball League championship this year.
Now, whether Gillenwater would be a bane or boon from hereon adds a new twist in SMB’s campaign for another dominant season.
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