MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 2) Petron Blaze import Renaldo Balkman has been slapped with a lifetime ban and fined P250,000 by the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) following a stunning meltdown that saw him choke teammate Arwind Santos.
Balkman, who previously played for the New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets in the NBA, went berserk in the final seconds of the Boosters’ 73-83 loss to the Alaska Aces last Friday at the Araneta Coliseum.
After playing the worst game of his short PBA career and scoring only six points, Balkman wound up arguing with the game officials while protesting a non-call.
He shoved Petron's assistant coaches, who tried to calm him down, as well as teammates Ronald Tubid and Santos. When Santos pushed him back, Balkman shockingly choked the former Far Eastern University Tamaraw.
In a statement posted on the league website, Salud said he considered "Balkman's track record" in determining the sanction for the import.
"I took into consideration Balkman's track record including the head-butting incident during a FIBA-Americas game between Puerto Rico and Venezuela, and his altercation with the bench of the Alaska Aces during a pre-season game in Cebu City,” Salud said.
"I also took into consideration Balkman’s evident disregard for local and the host country’s sensibilities highlighted by his choking act on-court in full public view of his own teammate who was trying to pacify him," Salud added.
"Stiff as it maybe, this decision upholds the tenets of contextual accountability and the over-all interest of the league and fans."”
Supported by teammates, coaches
Balkman met with Salud in the PBA office earlier Monday and was accompanied by his Petron teammates and coaching staff.
The import had apologized to his teammates, as well as Santos' family, following Friday’s game. He also issued a public apology on his Twitter account and appeared on AKTV Center on Sunday to explain his actions.
"I just want to let the fans know, I know everybody has their own opinions, but I am human and everybody messes up one time in their life. I think this is the one time in my life that I messed up, and I truly apologize about it," Balkman said.
Balkman had said he was prepared to face the consequences of his actions.
"I have to deal with it. If I'm sent home I have to take it and deal with the consequences. I'm ready for that possibility," he said.
Santos, who also appeared on the TV show, said he was hopeful Balkman will get a second chance and stressed that he considers the import as a brother.
"Ang team namin ay parang isang pamilya. Natural lang na may girian ang mag-kuya," Santos said. "Balkman is like my brother. Natural lang na minsan hindi natin nako-control ang mga emosyon natin."
Petron coach Olsen Racela was also willing to give Balkman another chance, although he said the final decision will be left to his bosses.
"We're here as a family in support for Rey... He's been with us the past two months. We know the kind of person he is," Racela said, as quoted by the PBA’s official Twitter account.
Racela also said that Petron management will mete its own sanctions against Balkman.
Balkman was averaging 28.2 points per game coming into the game against Alaska and had led the Boosters to a 5-1 record.
Not only was Balkman's meltdown witnessed by a nationwide audience, it was also picked up by international media, including the basketball blogs of Yahoo!, CBS Sports, and Deadspin.
The import told AKTV Center that he was only trying to explain his frustration to the referees, but the situation got out of hand.
"My main focus was to let the referees know I was frustrated throughout the game. It escalated to be something that shouldn't have happened, and I regret everything that happened out there," Balkman said.
In his statement, Salud said he "encourage(s) passion for the game, but I also want to firmly instill a culture of accountability among our players."
"If one does something that violates the rules and the norms of sportsmanship and decent behavior, he will be made accountable," Salud said.
The Petron management has yet to give an official response to Balkman's ban and fine. It remains to be seen who will take Balkman’s place as the Boosters’ import, although Spin.ph earlier reported that Rodney White is being considered as a potential replacement.