A seamless transition.
San Miguel Alab Pilipinas head coach Jimmy Alapag expressed his excitement for the imminent comeback of his former import Renaldo Balkman to the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
The once-banished Puerto Rican import is slated to reinforce the San Miguel Beermen in their defense of the Commissioner’s Cup title.
The Beermen opened the season’s second conference with a 0-2 win-loss card, prompting the SMC management to replace their 6’8 import Troy Gillenwater with Balkman.
Fresh from winning the 2018 ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) crown with Alab Pilipinas, Alapag threw his support for the return of Balkman to the professional league. In 2013, the PBA imposed a lifetime ban on the mercurial import for shoving team officials and choking then-Petron teammate Arwind Santos in a show of frustration in a game against the Alaska Aces.
In an interview with FOX Sports Philippines, Alapag aired his anticipation for Balkman’s PBA homecoming.
“I am really excited for him. I know in this lifetime, whether sports or just life itself, you don’t always get second chances. He’s a great guy and he has shown it in his stint with Alab Pilipinas. That’s his true character. What happened a long time ago was just an isolated incident and it is water under the bridge,” said the former PBA MVP-turned-ABL champion coach.
Upon his return to the Philippines in January as Alab Pilipinas’ world import, Balkman extended the olive branch to the aggrieved individuals of his 2013 outburst. Balkman publicly reached out to Santos, currently the San Miguel team captain, to make amends.
He also conveyed his apologies to the PBA through Commissioner Willie Marcial, who then reconnected Balkman to former Commissioner Chito Salud. It was Salud, the commissioner in 2013, who levied the ban on Balkman.
In his four-month tenure with Alab Pilipinas, Alapag witnessed first-hand the true persona of Balkman, who worked in tandem with Justin Brownlee for the memorable ABL title conquest. Alapag described Balkman as a “tireless worker” inside the court, but a “super funny guy” outside of it.
“(He is) really laid-back. But when it’s time to tie those shoe laces and throw that ball down, he’s gonna go out there and fight and claw, do whatever he has to do to help the team win,” quipped Alapag.
Looking to break out of a slump, Alapag expects the NBA veteran to provide the jolt that the Beermen badly need. The newly-crowned Philippine Cup Champions are coming off a tough 123-119 overtime loss to the Rain-or-Shine Elastopainters last May 13.
Playing alongside a talented local crew, Balkman can produce the needed numbers for the Beermen, who are in search for their first victory in the Commissioner’s Cup.
“I think it will be a seamless transition. They’ll see his impact right away. He might not necessarily come out on Saturday and score 50 points. But he’s such a smart player. He has such a high basketball IQ. He would do what he needs to do to help them win. To defend, rebound, he’ll score, he’ll run the floor and he’ll get deflections. Everyone was able to see that in his stint with Alab Pilipinas. We’ll get to see more of it now that he’s joining a loaded team in San Miguel,” Alapag elaborated.
The Balkman-reinforced Beermen battle the Alaska Aces on May 19, Saturday, at the Lamberto Macias Sports and Cultural Center in Dumaguete City.
Photo credit: ASEAN Basketball League Facebook Page