By TITO S. TALAO
Paul Lee’s demand to be traded from Rain or Shine, a move that could spark acrimony between the two parties, will be the biggest influence on decisions to be made starting 4 p.m. today during the Gatorade PBA Rookie Draft at Robinson’s Place in Ermita.
Lee, out of University of the East, was drafted by the RoS Elasto Painters with the No. 2 pick in 2011 and played a big role in turning around the franchise owned by businessmen Terry Que and Raymund Yu.
His contract was to expire by the end of this month and a three-year extension at maximum salary was offered, a long-term deal that guaranteed him P15.12 million.
It appears, however, that Lee, for reasons yet to be divulged, has plans of his own. And should their parting of ways be inevitable, so has Rain or Shine.
Stanley Pringle, the Fil-Am combo guard who played for the Indonesia Warriors in the Asean Basketball League, is set to join the Globalport Batang Pier after mutually coming to terms with team owner Mikee Romero of Harbor Center fame.
Earlier reports said Pringle had “asked for the moon” as a condition to signing with Globalport, a price Romero vehemently refused to pay. But the Pennsylvania State star had since cleared the air and reasonably lowered his own expectations after it was explained to him that not even PBA imports are paid as much.
Pringle stand to become the first point guard in 10 years to be drafted No. 1 overall after Gabe Norwood (Rain or Shine) in 2008 and Jayvee Casio (Alaska) in 2011.
There should be no surprises here therefore since Globalport has said time and again that it has no plans of trading away its rights for the top pick.
Next comes Rain or Shine, with a myriad of options in its possession.
Sources say RoS head coach Yeng Guiao is in deep talks with the E-Painters owners on their next course of action should Lee refuse to reconsider his LeBronesque decision.
Should Lee relent, then Rain or Shine could go for a big man, if anyone is available, to back up undersized center Beau Belga.
If not, then the E-Painters could grab Chris Banchero, a 1-2 guard with Hollywood looks and a mean A-game.
“Wala naman kaming pinagsamahan na masama ni Paul. We love Paul. And there is no offer there that is better than ours, at least legally, since we have offered him a maximum contract already,” Guiao told the sports website Spin.ph.
“At the very least, the team deserves an explanation,” he added.
Banchero, from Seattle Pacific University, would be a perfect substitute for Lee, who Rain or Shine governor Mert Mondragon said they are willing to trade in exchange for a “dominant big man.”
“If Paul hasn’t signed with us by draft day, we might look into the possibility of drafting for an insurance at dun papasok sila Chris Banchero saka yung mga Gilas (cadet) boys gaya nila Kevin Alas, Ronald Pascual, saka Matt Rosser,” Guiao told Richard Dy.
After Globalport and Rain or Shine, the draft order will be as follows: Barako Bull, NLEX, Alaska, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, San Mig Coffee (from Barako, acquired from Petron/San Miguel Beer), Barako Bull (from Talk ‘N’ Text), Rain Or Shine, Barako Bull (from San Mig Coffee), Kia Motors and Blackwater.
Talk ‘N’ Text, San Miguel Beer and Meralco will not pick in the first round unless they are able to trade for slots. Barako Bull has three first round choices and Rain or Shine, two.
A total of 87 PBA hopefuls will be on hand to answer the call when their names as called – none of them bigger than eight-division world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, the Kia Motors head coach.
Pacquiao applied for rookie draft in compliance to league rules and to be able to suit up for Kia while calling the shots from the bench, a position only two men had held before – Robert Jaworski with Ginebra and Ramon Fernandez with Purefoods, both of them Pacquiao’s idols.
Before presiding over the draft exercise, supported by Grilla, Shrimp Shack, The Old Spaghetti House, Inewvation, J.J. Sports Bar, Li-Ning, Sbarro, and Dunkin Donuts, PBA commissioner Chito Salud, along with the Board of Governors, will present outgoing chairman Ramon Segismundo of the Meralco Bolts a plaque of appreciation for his able stewardship of the league last season.