Imports were the focus of all the basketball spotlight Tuesday—and not just because the PBA Commissioner’s Cup features the tallest reinforcements for the season.
John Fields is fueling a strong start by Columbian, Arnett Moultrie has found his own patch of concrete at NLEX and, well, look who’s coming home for San Miguel Beer.
Turning down a shot to play in the lucrative Chinese hoops scene, Renaldo Balkman returns to the team where his infamy was born, hoping to rewrite his chapter in Philippine basketball lore.
“Never stop and always trust the process,” he wrote in an Instagram post on Tuesday after news of his PBA return broke.
And this is no fleeting PR-driven move. The enigmatic Puerto Rican forward gets his shot at redemption with the stakes at their highest: The Beermen need him to collect the second Grand Slam gem—a goal that has ran into a 0-2 (win-loss) roadblock.
“He was very happy,” said Sheryl Reyes, Balkman’s agent, who has been instrumental in his comeback. “He actually declined an offer to play for NBL in China, which was a guaranteed contract, because he wants to finish what he started here.
“It’s not about the money,” added Reyes. “Renaldo wants to pick up where he left off.”
Balkman was banned for life in 2013 because of his infamous outburst that saw him choke teammate Arwind Santos. And he made a strong argument for himself in the Asean Basketball League, averaging 24.9 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.3 steals, and 1.7 blocks to lead San Miguel Beer-Alab Pilipinas to the title while being named co-Defensive Player of the Year.
Moreover, he and Santos have patched up, paving the way for commissioner Willie Marcial to rescind the ban.
Santos even expressed his excitement with this impending reunion with Balkman.
“I think he can really help the team,” the 2013 PBA MVP said in Filipino. “And everyone deserves a second chance and maybe, a third chance. Just because he made a mistake before, it doesn’t mean that he’ll do it again.”
Clamor for his comeback grew after an unimpressive showing from first-choice import Troy Gillenwater, who averaged 15.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists for the Beermen.
While Balkman will debut on Saturday against Alaska, Fields and Moultrie will try to build on their impressive starts sooner.
“It looked like a big gamble, I must agree, but I have absolute faith in how John is going to be able to help us,” said coach Ricky Dandan of Columbian.
Moultrie, who collected 37 points, 17 rebounds, eight assists and four blocks against Phoenix to help NLEX snap a 0-3 start, is also finding his niche.
Fields and the Dyip battle Magnolia at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday while later in the day, Moultrie and NLEX tackle GlobalPort.