Games Today (Smart Araneta)
3 p.m. – Blackwater vs Mahindra
5:15 p.m. – Globalport vs Brgy. Ginebra
Good riddance, Ivan the Terrible.
Apparently fed up with Ivan Johnson’s destructive nature and recidivist attitude, the Philippine Basketball Association yesterday lowered the boom on the Tropang TNT import, banning him for life and fining him a whopping P250,000 following yet another ugly incident that this time involved PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa.
The swift and decisive verdict came in the aftermath of an episode that occurred with four minutes left in the first quarter of the Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup game which the Meralco Bolts won, 88-84, for their second straight win at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.
“For addressing the Commissioner with profanities and showing utter disrespect for authority…Johnson has been banned from the PBA and fined P250,000,” was Narvasa’s statement sent to media.
Two hard fouls that resulted in technicals triggered Johnson’s banishment. His profanity-laced explosion against Narvasa, who prior to the conference suspended him for one game on top of a P50,000 fine for going after two Blackwater Elite players in a tuneup game, may have caused the axe to fall.
The ban, ironically, came three days after Johnson returned from sitting out TNT’s opening day win over the Elite.
Johnson first drew a T for extending a forearm, on the pretext that he was stretching his wingspan, and hitting Bolts center Kelly Nabong in the mouth. He next threw an elbow at Bryan Faundo’s temple as the Meralco forward was setting a pick three quarters into the opening period, getting another whistle.
Furious but feigning innocence after getting his second technical, Johnson then turned to Narvasa, who was seated at the officials table, and hit him with an expletive. The league commissioner rose from his chair to confront Johnson but was restrained by PBA media bureau chief Willie Marcial.
TNT coach Jong Uichico spoke briefly with Johnson, who appeared to be explaining his side, before the short-tempered import walked off for the locker room.
It is yet uncertain whether TNT management will appeal the ban although a league insider said the Texters will actually be better off accepting the decision since they will now be able to get another reinforcement, something a mere suspension order won’t allow them to.
“Di sila puwedeng magpalit ng import; kailangan nilang tapusin yung suspension,” said the source. “Pag ban, puwede na sila agad makakuha ng iba. So, sa totoo lang, mas mapapabuti pa sila.”
Cliff Hodge led the Bolts with 15 points while Jared Dillinger and wide-bodied import Orinze Onuaku had 14 each.
Triple-teamed every time he got the ball at the low post, Onauku, who just had seven rebounds and 2 of 4 free throws, was forced to give it up, taking away much of the Bolts’ inside game.
“Our biggest problem is our rebounds so it helps that our import’s a good rebounder,” said Meralco coach Norman Black. “We need to improve on our spacing; our shot selection’s also bad.”
Meralco missed all but one of its first 14 three-point attempts. But the Bolts found their mark for two treys in the final 5:52 courtesy of rookie Baser Amer and Jared Dillinger, who made it 77-71 in the last 2:08.
Jayson Castro led TNT with 25 points, Larry Fonacier added 15 and Johnson, who was responsible for bloodying Rain or Shine Paul Lee in the mouth last season and running over Elasto Painters coach Yeng Guiao, had nine points and four rebounds as the PBA saw the last of his recalcitrant character.
Meanwhile, the Mahindra Enforcers gun for their second straight win even as three ballclubs that kicked off the conference with losses get a shot at breaking the ice on Valentine’s Day at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Mahindra, a shock 111-98 winner over Philippine Cup semifinalist Globalport last Wednesday, takes on fellow second-year team Blackwater Elite at 3 p.m., while Globalport faces Barangay Ginebra San Miguel at 5:15 p.m.
MERALCO 88 – Hodge 15, Dillinger 14, Onuaku 14, Faundo 11, Alapag 10, Amer 10, Newsome 9, David 3, Al-Hussaini 2, Bono 0, Buenafe 0, Caram 0, Hugnatan 0, Nabong 0.
TROPANG TNT 84 – Castro 25, Fonacier 15, Johnson 9, Williams 8, De Ocampo 7, Reyes R. 7, Carey 6, Nuyles 4, Tautuaa 3, Ababou 0, Rosser 0, Reyes J. 0, Aban 0.
Quarters: 16-20, 33-26, 61-55, 88-84