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  • Road to redemption

    first_imgRenaldo Balkman (34) and Justin Brownlee (32) get some pointers from veteran Dondon Hontiveros (left). —TRISTANTAMAYO/INQUIRER.NETThe seeds of redemption were planted over 12,000 kilometers away from Manila, at Palacio Municipal de Deportes San Pablo in Seville, Spain. Two players far from home sharing a short talk and a promise—I’ll help open doors for you, said one; I’ll win you a title, replied the other.On Wednesday night, in a far less impressive stadium and under the lights of a tournament with less prestige, signs of life sprouted from those seeds. It isn’t full bloom just yet—the extent of forgiveness Philippine basketball is willing to extend to Renaldo Balkman is something only time can tell. But at least, something pushed itself out of the soil, allowing the import who left in a veil of infamy to begin taking that road to redemption.ADVERTISEMENT OSG plea to revoke ABS-CBN franchise ’a duplicitous move’ – Lacson “What happened years back was really an isolated incident, and at the end of the day no one’s perfect,” said Alab Pilipinas coach Jimmy Alapag. “We all make mistakes and he’s said numerous times he’s regretful of what happened. Hopefully this issue will be dead and he’ll be able to make a much better impression here in the Philippines.”Alapag opened the door for Balkman’s return, something that seemed implausible after the events of March 2013, when the former New York Knick shoved Petron (San Miguel Beer) teammate Ronald Tubid and choked Arwind Santos in a bizarre ending to a loss to Alaska during a PBA Commissioner’s Cup match.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSTim Cone, Ginebra set their sights on elusive All-Filipino crownSPORTSGinebra beats Meralco again to capture PBA Governors’ Cup titleSPORTSAfter winning title, time for LA Tenorio to give back to Batangas folkThat resulted in a P250,000 fine and a permanent ban from the league.But Alapag offered him a chance to play in Manila again when the two met in the 2014 World Cup in Spain, where Balkman’s Puerto Rico defeated Gilas Pilipinas, 77-73, in a Group B match. 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Now, he doesn’t need to look far to understand what it means to be loved by a basketball-crazy archipelago.Brownlee, who steered Barangay Ginebra, the PBA’s most popular squad, to back-to-back Governors’ Cup titles—the first of which broke a long title drought—was showered with the most iconic cheer in Philippine basketball right from the get-go.“That was very special,” said Brownlee of the “Gi-ne-bra!” chants that greeted him.“I know I’m here in Alab—this is a great team, a great organization and a great company, and everything,” added Brownlee who finished with 29 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists. “[But] it’s always going to feel great to hear that chant no matter where I am.”Balkman knows a title can earn him a semblance of that love. But for now, he is content with being welcomed with open arms.“It felt good, the reception, and I didn’t expect it. The past is the past,” said Balkman. “I did lots of things since then and tonight, it wasn’t on my mind, it wasn’t on my head. I just went out there to play basketball.”And play he did. Brownlee, highly instrumental in the victory, had a hand in all the points in an 8-0 run that gave Alab a 68-63 lead entering the fourth. He hit two triples and fed Balkman for a dunk to highlight the rally.But even he admitted how much of an impact Balkman made.“It was a great opportunity and an honor to be able to play for a guy like him,” said Brownlee. “He’s an intelligent player and playing with somebody like that with a lot of knowledge in basketball, and also a great guy, it’s a blessing for me and my career. I’ll definitely take advantage of that.”Alab later opened the fourth with a 12-3 run to build an 81-66 lead with Balkman capping off the spurt with a breakaway two-hand flush. Alforque, Lazaro book finals seatscenter_img Scottie Thompson also worthy of Finals MVP, thinks Cone Meralco ‘never the same’ after Almazan injury in PBA Finals Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. View comments Steam emission over Taal’s main crater ‘steady’ for past 24 hours “When I saw him in Spain, he said ‘if you ever get to coaching and the door opens for me to come back to Manila, I’m willing to play for you,’” said Alapag.That door opened wide after a poor start by Alab Pilipinas in the Asean Basketball League—Alapag’s first foray into coaching. Needing a season reboot fast, Alapag hooked up with Balkman and brought in Barangay Ginebra’s Justin Brownlee to replace original imports Reggie Okosa and Ivan Johnson.On Wednesday night, at Filoil Arena, the pair showed their worth, leading Alab past Westports Malaysia, 90-79.“I played against him as a player, now he’s my coach. It’s a blessing for me to be given that chance,” said Balkman, who compiled 17 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and two blocks.“We talked about it a couple of years ago. He always told me that if he had a chance to coach me he would and that’s what happened. Right now, I’m still thanking him because he kept his promise so I’ll keep my promise of winning him a championship.”ADVERTISEMENT OSG plea to revoke ABS-CBN franchise ’a duplicitous move’ – Lacson It was the first of many highlights Balkman hopes to put together. And if he assembles enough of them to push Alab Pilipinas to the title, he may just redeem himself sooner than he expected.Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Brian Heruela arrival bolsters Phoenix backcourt, defenselast_img read more