SKIRMISHES among teammates are common, but for Franz Pumaren who has been in the PBA for so long both as player and coach, the Renaldo Balkman choking incident is still something new.
“You can fight among yourselves, but you do it within your compound,” said Pumaren, the Air21 Express mentor. “But this time, this is something new.”
Balkman, the talented but temperamental Petron import, was slapped with a lifetime ban by league commissioner Chito Salud and fined P250,000 on Monday for grave misconduct and serious unsportsmanlike and offensive on-court decorum that saw him choke teammate Arwind Santos during the Boosters’ game against the Alaska Aces in the Commissioner’s Cup last week.
The issue easily reminded Pumaren of the time when he was still playing for San Miguel when the Beermen had an equally talented but eccentric import by the name of Derrick Chievous during the 1992 First Conference.
A first-round draft pick of the Houston Rockets in 1988 at 16th overall, the 6-foot-7 Chievous was definitely a gifted player, but unfortunately, was notorious for his attitude that saw him once get into a fight with legendary Houston great Hakeem Olajuwon, and later on with no less than his San Miguel coach Norman Black.
“That was vivid in my memory because it was in a small dressing room (at the ULTRA), you can just imagine that,” he recalled about the encounter between the import and the coach.
Black apparently called the attention of Chievous after one crucial loss by the Beermen, who were actually on a winning streak and just within reach of a Finals berth until the import slackened down and began to miss the team’s practices.
“He’ll go to practice in his pajamas while eating cereals. And once when Norman told him to work out or else he’ll get out of shape, `yung kable ng industrial fan pinutol niya at yun ang ginawang skipping rope. Ganun kakatok `yun,” said Pumaren of Chievous whom they fondly called `Band Aid’ for his penchant for showing up wearing band aid in different parts of his body.
And so on the night when San Miguel lost a must-win game, Black finally got pissed off and told Chievous that he should start seriously practicing with the team.
The import then stood up, removed his shirt, and told Black, "Can’t you see I’m already skinny, I’m pushing myself already."
“They were gonna start exchanging blows, and I was kind of close to Derrick and of course, Norman, so I was the one who pacified them,” said the Air21 coach.
“To cut it short, that’s a classic example of what happens normally among teammates within the compound, within the dressing room.”
Chievous was eventually sent packing by San Miguel management and replaced by Rick Calloway. The Beermen reached the Finals but lost the title to Bobby Parks and the Shell Turbo Chargers.
“But if Chievous was still our import, maybe we could have won that,” said Pumaren.
Then again, its team spirit and harmony which San Miguel chose to maintain more than personal glory.
“That kind of fight (in the team) normally happens within the dressing room, within the gym,” Pumaren said. “But this one (with Balkman) is quite unusual.”