Seville, Spain — Is beleaguered Rain or Shine star Paul Lee ready to come back to the waiting arms of coach Yeng Guiao?
It looks that way as Lee said Thursday that he plans to go straight to team practice next week upon Gilas Pilipinas’ return to Manila from the FIBA Basketball World Cup here.
“Mas maganda na magkaroon kami ni coach Yeng (Guiao) ng parang father-and-son talk pag balik namin,” said Lee during a dinner hosted by telecommunications tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan a few hours after the Nationals beat Senegal on the final day of the preliminaries at the Palacio Municipal de Deportes San Pablo.
Lee said that while a telephone call he made to Guiao a few weeks earlier had cleared up the air somewhat, he intended to lay everything on the table in a heart-to-heart talk with the ROS mentor, who Lee said he has utmost respect for.
Although the former University of the East star didn’t say outright that he is now open to signing the offered maximum three-year contract extension reportedly worth P15.1 million, he did hint at the possibility of coming to terms with the Elasto Painters before the Gilas team leaves for the Incheon Asian Games later this month.
Lee was named to the national team that was to see action in Spain as one of three FIBA Asia qualifiers after original Gilas player Larry Fonacier begged off last July to get treatment for chronic back pains.
The forthcoming meeting will be just between him and Guiao, said Lee, who also denied reports other ballclubs had sought him out to inquire on his status even before his RoS contract expired last month.
Such probing, no matter how discreet, is tantamount to tampering, PBA commissioner Chito Salud said during the PBA Rookie Draft a few weeks ago at Robinson’s Place in Ermita, stressing that the league “won’t be held hostage” by such serious breach of league rules.
Salud may have also indirectly referred to Lee when he warned of “whimsical and capricious players.”
“Nakakahiya rin naman kasi, halimbawa dito sa Gilas, kung pag-iisipan sila ng ganoon,” said Lee, adding that his supposed demand to be traded was simply a case of misunderstanding.
“Parang nabigla lang ako non,” Lee said. “Sabi nga ni coach Yeng, pag-isipan ko munang mabuti ang decision ko. Kaya lahat yan mapapag-usap namin ni coach pag balik ko. Masaya naman ako dito e. Wala rin naman akong masasabi sa management o sa mga team owners; mababait silang lahat.”
Lee’s plan to have a private conversation with Guiao was welcomed by his RoS teammates Beau Belga and Jeff Chan, both of whom had reportedly grown distant from Lee after statements attributed to him indicated that he was asking to be traded.
“E di mabuti; yan naman talaga and kailangan e,” said Belga. “Kami naman e tagapayo lang. Siya rin naman talaga ang me decision diyan.” “Noon pa naman namin siya sinasabihan kaso di sumasagot pag tinatawagan mo,” said Chan. “Kung totoo yon na mag-uusap sila, sana ma-resolve na lahat ng mga problema.”
The apparent falling-out among them was none more evident than in the sitting arrangement during dinner, with Lee separated by maybe two or three seats from his E-Painters teammates, neither of whom spoke with Lee during the entire evening.