Seville, Spain — Rain or Shine Governor Mert Mondragon walked into the dining hall of the Melia Lebreros Hotel here Wednesday morning and immediately clammed up about Paul Lee.
“My marching order (from team management) is not to talk to him para hindi siya ma-distract sa kanyang commitment with Gilas,” said Mondragon, who arrived with the rest of the PBA governors late Tuesday after a 26-hour journey from Manila, with two plane rides, long waits between flights and 2 ½ hours by train from Madrid.
Told that Lee’s Gilas teammate LA Tenorio, who welcomed SMC ballclub officials Robert Non (San Miguel Beer), Alfrancis Chua (Barangay Ginebra) and Rene Pardo (San Mig Coffee) that evening, has confirmed that the embattled Rain or Shine playmaker, embroiled in a contract dispute with his team, is already distracted, Mondragon shook his head.
“Di naman kami nagsimula niyan, e,” he said. “Pero puwede mo ba naman siyang pakawalan ng basta-basta?”
Tenorio bared Lee is clearly troubled by the publicity mess generated by his refusal to sign a maximum three-year extension offer worth P15.1M with RoS and his subsequent demand to be traded.
“Ikaw ba naman ang naglalaro ng walang kontrata,” Tenorio said outside a roadside pizzeria adjacent to the place where the league governors are billeted. “Sabi nga namin, ‘pirmahan mo na.’”
The Barangay Ginebra star said the situation has become so unwieldy that even Lee’s RoS teammates Jeff Chan and Beau Belga have consciously drifted away from the former University of the East stalwart.
“Di na nga rin siya sinasamahan ngayon nina Beau at Jeff,” Tenorio said. “Ang kasama niya ngayon e yung mga Fil-Ams.”
Tenorio couldn’t confirm stories that Belga had said in jest that he would go after Lee should he transfer to another team.
Brought to his attention just before he had breakfast the morning after their arrival, Mondragon said he doesn’t believe Belga and Chan would give their teammate the cold shoulder.
“Di naman siguro although ang balita ko e madalas nga niyang kasama ngayon e sina [Marc] Pingris at June Mar [Fajardo],” Mondragon said.
A hilarious video footage posted by Pingris on his Facebook account seemed to confirm this. In it Pingris is shown mockingly gunning down a sprawled Paul Lee outside an unidentified street to the sound of staccato gunfire which turns out to be Fajardo pounding on the pavement with some footwear.
The source added that Lee could now be in a bind after both the San Miguel block in the PBA and the MVP group denied they had made official inquiries on the player’s status, directly to him or through his representatives.
“Siya ang medyo naiipit ngayon,” the source said. “Ni ayaw nga ata siyang kausapin ng Rain or Shine e.”
Lee’s original three-year contract with the E-Painters expired last August.