Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao is stepping into the big picture tomorrow with the intention of clearing the air surrounding star point guard Paul Lee before it gets murkier.
Guiao will be wading in dark waters when he meets the Elasto Painters, minus their four key players who are with Gilas Pilipinas in Miami, when they kick off team practice for the 40th PBA season at the Northeast Greenhills gym.
By his admission, Guiao says that all he knows about ongoing contract negotiations with Lee is what he has been reading in the papers and in the social media.
“Ala pa ‘kong alam diyan; wala kaming contact with the players since after the [Governors’ Cup] Finals,” Guiao says. “But by Monday, we will have to take on all the issues…trades, the draft, Paul Lee… and evaluate from there.”
The House representative from the first district of Pampanga made it clear that he has made it a rule to leave all financial talks with players at the discretion of team owners Terry Que and Raymond Yu.
“Management is in control because they’re the ones who know what their resources are,” Guiao says, adding as an afterthought “unless they ask me for advice.”
And they haven’t yet?
“Wala pa,” Guiao says.
Lee was added to the Gilas pool earlier and joined RoS teammates Jeff Chan, Beau Belga and Gabe Norwood as among those being considered for the final 12 lineup to the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain starting Aug. 30.
The withdrawal of Talk ‘N Text shooter Larry Fonacier, a member of the Philippine team that qualified to the World Cup by coming second to Iran in last year’s FIBA Asia Championship in Manila, has opened a slot for Lee to sneak into the team.
Lee also built a strong case for his inclusion when he nailed three free throws with no time left against China in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup in Wuhan to help Gilas salvage a bronze medal finish.
The sports website Spin.ph broke the news that teams are gunning for the ace playmaker whose contract with Rain or Shine expires by the end of this month.
Guiao takes affront at what he feels was a backhanded maneuver.
“Dapat sana meron rule na you can’t talk to a player, even secretly, when he still has a contract; that shouldn’t be allowed to happen,” he says. “Protect a team by prohibiting negotiations or even overtures from other teams while a player has a live contract.”
After the revelation that effort was made to inquire into Lee’s fate, next came a flurry of strongly-worded statements from RoS board representative Mert Mondragon, baring first that they are offering Lee a three-year contract at the maximum salary scale and then declaring, in effect, that even Lee, should he hesitate to accept the new deal, is indispensable if a trade offer involving a dominant big man comes along.
Guiao doesn’t see it going that far however.
“I’m confident something is going be worked out soon,” he says. “Simple lang yan para sa ‘kin; parang one-plus-one. He’s being offered the maximum which he deserves. How then can other teams offer him something better if we all follow the rules? What will they put in the offer sheet? So I’m not really worried since we have the rights to Paul. Also, as far as I know, Paul likes playing for this team.”
Lee hasn’t responded to RoS management’s remarks so far which could be a good sign that all’s well. Still, the recent injury to Indiana Pacers star Paul George, who suffered a horrific leg fracture while scrimmaging with the USA basketball team, could put things in a slightly different perspective as far as Lee is concerned since the question of security could now crop up.
The three-year maximum salary offer should put to rest all apprehensions – unless something else stirs the pot.
At any rate, Yeng Guiao hopes to have everything good and cooked before the month is over.
Does he have any advice for Paul Lee, meantime?
“Wala naman. Paul is levelheaded; he’s smart and he can make decisions for himself,” says Guiao. “He knows where he came from, knows who saw and nurtured his potential, and he can make a decision based on that.”