By Polo Bustamante
I fear that for the rest of the series, Rain or Shine will be robbed of a playmaker. The Elastopainters relied heavily on Paul Lee to run their offense this entire season. And so far in this conference he’s delivered in spades.
If Paul Lee doesn’t make it back in the series, Rain or Shine will miss his aggressiveness, leadership and swagger. The open looks near the basket for Beau Belga; probably gone. Jamelle Cornley will likely see more double teams now that Paul Lee can’t attract defenders. Jeff Chan might miss the space he had beyond the arc.
Paul Lee was an extension of Yeng Guaio on the court. He brought the coach’s game plan to life. Beyond the playmaking though, he also embodied Guaio’s demeanor and toughness. Problems with X’s and O’s can be remedied. It’s the “angas” Paul Lee brings to the team, however, that’s truly irreplaceable.
PBA fans risk being robbed of a great Finals series. We might miss out on Paul Lee showcasing his skills on the big stage against a big time opponent. We might miss out on his swashbuckling drives to the basket, 30-foot three-point bombs and that sweet killer crossover. Chances are, we can no longer watch Paul Lee break Josh Urbiztondo’s ankles or punish Mark Barroca in the post. We might miss out on a primetime match-up for the rest of the Finals: Paul Lee the rising star versus James Yap the superstar.
“Small market” PBA Teams were probably robbed of an icon, for the time being. This was the season where “small market” teams like Powerade and Rain or Shine crashed the usual MVP vs. SMC Finals affair. The Governor’s Cup Finals was already an uphill battle for the Elastopainters to begin with. But they had a legitimate shot, especially after beating B-MEG in Game 1. This could have been the year that the small company finally overthrows the giant corporation, for at least one title series. But with Paul Lee probabaly done, we start waiting for next year.
Was Paul Lee robbed by fate? The moment he was rolled out of the Araneta Colliseum, his first real shot at a championship, perhaps rolled out with him. Lee missed out on a championship in the UAAP and the PBL. This was supposed to be his moment. It certainly won’t be his last, but it’s a shame that he might not be able to do it as a rookie with a team he transformed as soon as he joined them.
Paul Lee gave Rain or Shine an identity. It’s upsetting that this had to happen to him, that this had to happen to a genuinely nice guy who played the game all out, that it had to happen to a tough, fiery competitor who played games with an injured shoulder that eventually broke down, that it had to happen to such a transcendent talent playing with the right team at the right time.
We were all robbed the moment Paul Lee crumpled to the floor. Yeng Guiao believes otherwise. Guiao says Rain or Shine will win with or without his star rookie. Still, if Paul Lee doesn’t make it back, if the series continues without him, the basketball gods owe us a big one. PB