PUERTO RICAN Renaldo Balkman joined the San Miguel Beer practice on Wednesday, marking his official return to the league and the team that abruptly sent him home five years ago.
Balkman, who had a successful stint with Alab Pilipinas in the Asean Basketball League, made his initial appearance with his teammates and coaching staff during the team’s morning training session in Libis, Quezon City.
The 6-foot-8 former New York Knicks big man will be making his return in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup against Alaska on Saturday in Dumaguete City.
Balkman replaced Troy Gillenwater, who failed to impress in two straight losses against Meralco and Rain or Shine. The coaches hope the presence of the 33-year-old player will spark a surge in their bid to win another title this season.
Commissioner Willie Marcial lifted the lifetime ban handed on Balkman, paving the way for his return to the league.
Interestingly, the team San Miguel will be facing next was the same squad Balkman faced in his last match with then Petron in 2013.
A skirmish broke out between him and game officials and teammates when Balkman contested what he saw as a noncall against him. He went berserk on referees, and vented his ire on his coaches and teammates who tried to pacify him.
The situation worsened when he strangled Arwind Santos.
Then-Commissioner Chito Salud sent Balkman packing and issued a lifetime ban with an additional P250,000 fine.