PETRON begins life without energetic import Renaldo Balkman when it plays with an all-Filipino crew against Rain or Shine in Saturday’s PBA Commissioner’s Cup Phoenix on Tour game in Panabo City, Davao del Norte.
The Boosters (5-2) are forced to play without an import after negotiations for Balkman’s original replacement Samardo Samuels failed to materialize on Thursday.
The team however, already agreed to a deal with Rodney White, although the 6-foot-9 reinforcement would not be arriving in the country until Sunday.
As it is, the Boosters will settle for an all-Filipino roster when they face Bruno Sundov and the tough Elasto Painters (5-2) in the 6:30 p.m. encounter, with the winner earning solo second spot.
Coach Olsen Racela admits the team’s next three assignments won’t be easy as the Boosters will next face Talk ‘N Text on March 22, followed by its return match with Alaska on March 27.
“Ngayon, mahirap mag-plano kasi wala pa kaming import. Masama lang talaga timing nang mawala si Rey (Balkman). Pero ngayon, we’ll take it one game at a time,” Racela told Spin.ph just before the team left for Panabo City.
The 6-foot-6 Balkman was banned from playing in the league by commissioner Chito Salud for grave misconduct during the Boosters’ 73-83 loss to the Aces a week ago.
Balkman went wild in the dying seconds of the game, defying his coaches, shoving referees and teammates, and grabbed teammate Arwind Santos with a choke hold.
Racela admitted it’s hard to replace the kind of energy and hustle Balkman brings to the team.
“Malaking disadavntage na agad iyan sa amin, especially since Rain or Shine is also coming off a loss. We just have to keep the game close and take it from there,” added Racela, whose team is expected to miss Balkman’s conference averages of 25 points, 13.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.7 blocks, and 2.0 steals.
The Petron coach said White will reinforce the Boosters in their game against the Tropang Texters next week.
The 6-foot9 White played five games for Barako Bull last season, but had to leave the team prematurely to attend to his ailing father.
Gabe Norwood said the Painters hope to move on and forget their tough 76-86 loss to Talk ‘N Text on Wednesday, which snapped the team’s five-game losing streak.
Gunner Jeff Chan, who missed the team’s last six games due to a fractured left thumb, is expected to suit up for Rain or Shine on Saturday .