Sure, this 20th overall, 2006 NBA Draft pick filled the Mavs squad’s 20th preseason spot, and is not guaranteed to be part of the regular season roster, but his offense history — both on and off the court — leaves me with doubt that he will contribute much good to the team.
The twice-former New York Knicks‘ forward nicknamed “Kool”, lost his cool during their Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008 game against the Los Angeles Lakers. He threw an elbow to then-Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic’s jaw, and thus was charged with a flagrant “2” foul, ejected from that game and suspended without pay from their following game against the Utah Jazz.
[Sideline note: this reminds me of a similar event when former Laker forward Metta World Peace, who has had his own anger management issues and has since joined Balkman’s first NBA team in New York, resisted his self-proclaimed “world peace” by elbowing then-Oklahoma City Thunders now-Houston Rockets guard James Harden toward the end of the 2011-12 season, which earned him a seven-game suspension that started with their regular season closer and followed with the playoffs.]
Balkman’s track record expands past the league into the legal system with his 2009 arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence after refusing a blood-alcohol test in Florida between his first and second season with the Denver Nuggets.
[Next sideline note: The Mavericks don’t need drama. They already experienced enough from former “LaMav” Lamar Odom, who didn’t offer much more to Dallas than his sour sportsmanship. Mavs owner Mark Cuban made the right choice with the “mutual agreement” to list forward “Lame-ar” as inactive for the rest of the 2011-12 season.]
Furthermore, Balkman, who represented his native Puerto Rico at the 2011 FIBA of the Americas tournament, literally butt heads with Venezuela guard Grevis Vásquez, who previously played for the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Hornets now-Pelicans, and is on the current Sacramento Kings roster.
Earlier this year in the Philippines, Balkman unleashed more violence on his Petron Blaze Boosters teammates and officials when they played against the Alaska Aces, who broke the Boosters’ winning streak. His rage, that included him choking fellow forward Arwind Santos, cost him a hefty fine and worse off, ban from the PBA.
I hope that history doesn’t repeat itself with Balkman’s pointless aggression and low numbers in the league so far. However, I wouldn’t mind if history repeats itself with the same scoring advantage that he had while playing overseas.
As a PBA player, “The Plastic Man” averaged 13.4 rebounds and 25 points in 39.9 minutes per game, compared to his low NBA averages of 3.5 rpg and 4 ppg in 13.9 mpg. Therefore, he racked up more valuable stats with almost three times more playing time in the Philippines than as a U.S. pro.
Most recently, Balkman played for Puerto Rico again in the 2013 FIBA Americas tourney. Also known as “Taz,” he was like a devil on the floor on Friday, Aug. 30, when he led Puerto Rico to a victory over Venezuela, with the help of point guard J.J. Barea, a member of the Mavericks’ 2011 NBA Finals Championship team who now plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
I won’t be quick to judge Balkman’s character and would like to see a promising comeback for him in the NBA. As long as he reforms his behavior by easing up on his emotions with more hardwood composure compared to the past and refrains from crime, he would make a decent addition to the Mavs’ franchise this preseason.
Balkman would be an even greater asset if he could produce the kinds of results that he did internationally. Maybe that would call for the Mavericks to allow him more minutes per game to redeem his worth in the league.