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Johnson, PBA commish reconcile; TNT to appeal fine

MANILA, Philippines – Banned PBA import Ivan Johnson and league commissioner Chito Narvasa have reconciled after a meeting at the commissioner’s office Tuesday afternoon, February 16 in Eastwood City, Libis. 

The Tropang TNT import voluntarily went to the PBA office together with his wife and two kids to personally apologize to Narvasa. 

"Just coming in and showing that we met on bad terms. We needed to learn about each other first," Johnson said. "We took a minute to learn about each other. He's a good person." 

"I think I feel the same way about Ivan," Narvasa added with a smile. "I think there are many similarities that we have. One is that we always look like we're angry."

The 31-year-old Johnson was slapped a lifetime ban on top of a P250,000 fine on Saturday, February 13, after he threw curse words at Narvasa in a heated exchange during the TNT-Meralco game of the 2016 PBA Commissioner’s Cup. 

But both parties said they worked it out after roughly a 30-minute closed door conversation together with TNT team manager Virgil Villavicencio, who shared that Johnson asked to visit the commissioner as early as Sunday, February 14.

"He came here of his own volition, he extended his hand and he apologized, and I accepted," Narvasa said. "I think it was done also out of frustration. I understand him. I said I used to be a basketball player also and I think he just wants to win. I think that's just his intention." 

"I think it was borne out of frustration. I don't think it was meant to be intentional or personal. It was just a spur of the moment, I accepted it, and I understand it," Narvasa added. 

Both Johnson and Narvasa warmed up to each other in the time they spoke, laughing together and making jokes. Narvasa continued to bond with Johnson's family for almost an hour after the press conference, happily chatting with Johnson's wife and playing with the two kids. 

"I look at these players as my kids," Narvasa said. "And I don't want to hurt anybody especially when it comes to his career. If there's a way that I can help him I would always try to do that." 

TNT will send a letter of appeal to Narvasa on Tuesday in a bid to at least reduce Johnson's fine.

When asked whether there is a chance of the ban getting overturned after Johnson's initiative, Narvasa did not comment except to say he will wait for the appeal and will come out with a final decision either on Tuesday afternoon or at the latest on Wednesday, February 17. 

"There are certain limitations that I also have and I explained to them," Narvasa said. "What we want do here, really, is we're trying to look for a win-win solution for everybody, for the team, for Ivan also, and for the PBA." 

BONDING. PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa (R) bonds with Ivan Johnson's family after their meeting. Photo by Jane Bracher/Rappler

BONDING. PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa (R) bonds with Ivan Johnson's family after their meeting.

Photo by Jane Bracher/Rappler

Out of Johnson's character 

Given Johnson's reputation as a "bad boy," Narvasa and Villavicencio agreed his efforts hold weight as it is certainly out of the former Atlanta Hawk's character to admit his mistake. 

"I am truly appreciative that he even called his family," Narvasa said. "That was his sincere intention, really to come over, to be able to express himself, really, what kind of person he is. He's not that kind of person that you see out there." 

"Me, personally, I figured I had to come here to show him what type of person I am," Johnson explained.

"If you just look at me from the basketball side you will never know who I am because they are two different people. There's so much emotion in a basketball game, you'll never know who I am. I could say that myself: I'm a totally different person on the court." 

Johnson, who last season rapidly developed notoriety for his intense on-court demeanor along with his aggressive antics, also issued a public apology via his Facebook and Twitter accounts on Sunday. 

Johnson also clarified that he was not referring to Narvasa in the tweet he posted immediately after the ban was announced. The tweet read "the devil is working overtime," and Johnson said he meant the literal devil.

The two tweets he posted then was further testament to his fiery persona, but TNT players and Villavicencio attest to Johnson's light and jesting side off the court and during practices. (READ: Ill-tempered Johnson import Johnson a joker off-court, but also moody)

"I like him. In practice he's fun," offered rookie big man Moala Tautuaa. "He's definitely a different player when we play. He's intense. He likes to win and he wants to win and he does what he can. He's a strong man. I have a lot of respect for him. He's a good player." 

Johnson was ejected from the game late in the first half on Saturday after incurring two technical fouls. He also had a flagrant penalty 1 foul for an elbow to Bryan Faundo's face. 

Johnson, who also played in last season's Commissioner's Cup, served a one-game suspension prior to Saturday and was ordered to pay fines amounting to P50,000 for his role in a brawl during a tune-up game against Blackwater before the conference. 

The last import to be banned from the PBA was Renaldo Balkman in 2013 for choking Arwind Santos. – Rappler.com

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