Monday, June 18, 2012

Paul Lee is propelled by pain. by Martin Sarmenta.

By Martin Sarmenta

Yeng Guiao was smiling when he entered the PBA Press Room for his post-game interview. Yes, the fire-and-brimstone coach was smiling. The reason: his Rain or Shine Elasto Painters had just dispatched of its latest opponent, in a fashion that spoke of its newfound maturity.

Paul Lee’s crucial free throws and the victory they assured forced his coach’s lips into a smile. A few nights before, he hit a game-winning triple against no less than crowd-favourite Barangay Ginebra.

Not that his arsenal of skills comes as a shock. His offense is armed to the teeth: he can nail the jumper, beat you off the dribble (he idolizes Iverson and Kobe), and slash to the basket. He was always a time bomb that could go off at any minute, forcing the teams to guard him until the final buzzer.

Paul Lee did not win a UAAP championship, probably owing to the mysterious “Red Curse”. UE has fielded excellent squads in the last decade, but has always fallen short of winning it all.

Somehow, though, UE players blossom in the PBA. They seem to come in battle-tested, especially when compared against other rookies. Tubid, Yap, and Canaleta come to mind.

That’s why the “Red Curse” is so puzzling: many claim it’s unexplainable how so many talented players can not win a championship – but they play so well in the PBA.

Lee was drafted second to Casio in the recent PBA draft. Many thought Lee would actually go first, but Casio, along with other Gilas mainstays suddenly crashed the draft party. However, pending the end of the world or a colossal Casio feat, it seems that Lee will win Rookie of the Year.  He becomes an even stronger ROY candidate if the Elasto Painters continue their stellar run in the Governors’ Cup.

True, Rain-or-Shine fell short the last time they reached the semis after leading the eliminations, but the heartbreak seems to be motivating them.

All Paul Lee needs now is a bigger stage. Seriously, he can shine as brilliantly as Caguioa and David or even fellow UE alumni Yap and Tubid.

Because as long as Lee continues to draw from whatever it is he’s drawing from, we’ll be seeing a lot more smiles from coach Yeng Guiao. Is Guiao smiling because he knows something we don’t?

Paul Lee reminds me of the Oklahoma Thunder. People keep talking about their supposed immaturity and lack of experience.

What many don’t realize, and what many underestimate, is how experience doesn’t always come from winning. Experience, the kind that drives Paul Lee to perform with such ferocity, can also come from memories that place chips on our shoulders. Paul Lee knows: the scar of heartbreak can actually be a better teacher than the adulation that comes with a championship. MS

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