BALKMAN RETURNS | Prodigal SMB import replaces Gillenwater

Renaldo Balkman is staying put for the PBA. Glenn Tan/ABL (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Renaldo Balkman is back in the PBA.

The six-foot-eight forward is set for his official comeback in the PBA, replacing Troy Gillenwater as San Miguel's import for the ongoing Commissioner's Cup.

The development was first announced by his agent, Sheryl Reyes, through Twitter early Tuesday.

This was confirmed by team manager Gee Abanilla later in the day.

"SMC has decided to take a different direction and tap the services of Balkman in lieu of Gillenwater," Abanilla said in a statement.

Reyes actually hinted at Balkman's return when he returned to the Philippines from vacation in the US the night before.

Balkman, a former NBA first-round pick, became well-known in the PBA for the wrong reason as he held Arwind Santos' neck during the Beermen's--formerly the Petron Blaze Boosters--2013 game against Alaska as the latter was trying to pacify the former, who could not contain his emotions that time.

Then commissioner Chito Salud handed a lifetime ban on Balkman for the action, but current league head Willie Marcial, following a consultation with Salud, lifted the ban after seeing Balkman doing good conduct with Alab Pilipinas in the ABL.

SMB holds the rights to Balkman, making him eligible to become its replacement import.

Balkman will make his return on Saturday night at the Lamberto Macias Sports Complex in Dumaguete, interestingly against Alaska, the team that witnessed Balkman's infamous moment.

Gillenwater, however, will still need to pay something as Commissioner Willie Marcial slapped a PHP20,000 fine on Gillenwater for his intentional bump at a referee in the Beermen's game against the Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters on Sunday night in Antipolo, which helped in triggering the team management's decision to replace him.

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