Renaldo Balkman, Petron Blaze’s talented but temperamental import, has promised to reform himself. But he will have to turn a new leaf on another court, in another country.
Philippine Basketball Association commissioner Chito Salud yesterday dropped the axe on the NBA veteran, banning Balkman from playing in the PBA as an offshoot of his blatant display of unsportmanlike behavior in Petron’s losing game against Alaska last Wednesday.
Salud also fined Balkman P250,000 for going after the referees, ignoring and refusing to be pacified by the Petron coaching staff and his teammates and, ultimately, for choking superstar teammate Arwind Santos who was trying to calm him down in the waning seconds against the Aces.
A day after the incident, Balkman issued a public apology through San Miguel Corp., saying he had already sought forgiveness from Petron officials and players after the game.
Balkman appeared before Salud yesterday accompanied by all his teammates and the coaching staff led by Olsen Racela who showed their full support for the import who had led them to a 5-2 record in the Commissioner’s Cup eliminations.
Robert Non, the league chair and overall head of basketball operations of the San Miguel Group, said last Sunday they had decided to give Balkman a second chance and that they had no replacement in mind at the moment.
But Balkman’s past haunted him. Salud pointed to a headbutting incident in a Fiba Americas game against Venezuela where Balkman played for Puerto Rico as a naturalized citizen, as well as to a recent incident, also against Alaska, in the Sinulog Cup in Cebu.
“I also took into consideration Balkman’s evident disregard for … the host country’s sensibilities highlighted by his choking act on-court, in full public view, of his own teammate,” Salud said in a statement.
“Stiff as it may be, this decision upholds the tenets of contextual accountability and the overall interest of the league and its fans.”
Balkman later talked to the media after his conference with Salud and showed remorse for what he did.
“He (Salud) basically said I’m the leader and a role model of kids, (and) that’s what really hurts the most,” said Balkman. “In everybody’s eyes I’m the villain, (but) I’m not that type of guy.”
Balkman and the rest of the team actually patched things up inside their dugout after that loss to Alaska, with Santos the first one to approach the import to tell him that it was OK.
But the incident left a bad taste in the mouth, and apparently, the league saw it that way.