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PBA: Balkman brings positive energy to SMB


Arwind Santos was one of the first people to greet Renaldo Balkman before the latter’s first practice with the San Miguel Beermen yesterday at the Acropolis gym in Quezon City, finally putting aside whatever ill feelings stemming from an incident that rocked the PBA five years earlier.

Santos immediately noticed something different from the same man who choked him late in a March 2013 game for Petron (San Miguel’s former name), resulting in a lifetime ban that the PBA eventually lifted more than a month ago.

“Ang pagkakaiba ngayon si Renaldo nung dumating siya nakangiti siya,” Santos said. “Sobrang positive energy ang pinapakita niya sa team namin kaya natutuwa ako dun.”

But more than embracing setting aside past differences, both Balkman and Santos are determined to focus on the business at hand which is to not only arrest San Miguel’s 0-2 start in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup but also continue the habit of winning championships.

And Balkman is keen on getting the job done than deal with the pressure of high expectations from fans, observers and critics wary of seeing a repeat of the choking incident.

“To be honest with you, there’s no pressure with me,” Balkman said. “I’m just a type of guy who actually go out there and play basketball. If I’m here a week, or if I’m here (for) three months, it doesn’t matter. I’m gonna come out there and do what I’m supposed to do.

“Whatever (the team) tells me that I gotta do, whatever I’m gonna do out there on the court, it’s what I’m gonna do,” he added. “And again, if they decide to make a change in two weeks because I’m not doing well? Listen. I overcame a lot, and I’m here now.

“So moving forward, it’s all positive for me. It’s a positive note that I’m here right now, because a lot of people didn’t think that I was gonna be here. A lot of people had negativity, saying he’s never gonna play here again, he’d never suit up again in the PBA. And look, I’m here again.”

What San Miguel hopes to see is for Balkman to continue flaunting the same energetic style that made him a key part of Alab Pilipinas’ successful title run in the ASEAN Basketball League, something that was lacking from Troy Gillenwater who was sent home after two lackluster showings.

Ironically, he is set to make his debut on Saturday in Dumaguete City against Alaska, the same team Balkman and Santos fought during that fateful 2013 night.

“Everybody calls it a second chance. It’s just another job for me,” he said. “I go out there and look into the future. I don’t look into the past. The main goal here is for us to win another championship. And that’s what I’m here for.”