Rain or Shine’s Paul Lee has battled knee injury over the last six months, but he proved that when injury-free and in tip-top shape, he is – without a doubt – still one of the best combo guards in the PBA.
The stocky 6-foot-1 Lee hopes to stay in shape throughout the best-of-seven championship series of the Oppo PBA Commissioner’s Cup that kicks off tomorrow at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Wala na naman ako nararamdaman na,” said Lee yesterday after RoS had its practice session at the Northeast Green Hills gym in San Juan. “Sana nga mag-tuluy tuloy kasi eto na, finals na naman e.”
A left knee injury he sustained before the start of the 42nd PBA season forced the former Rookie of the Year (2012) to miss the eliminations of the Philippine Cup. He returned in the playoffs, but reinjured his knee in a Game 5 loss to San Miguel Beer in the semifinals.
Lee had a second PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) to repair partial tear both on lateral meniscus and ITB (Iliotibial Band) tendon in January, and his recovery made him miss Rain or Shine’s first six games of the eliminations this conference.
The onetime University of the East star returned to action last March 11 in a win against SMB.
Coming off the bench most of the time, Lee has blended well in the backcourt rotation of coach Yeng Guiao that also includes Chris Tiu, Jericho Cruz and rookie Maverick Ahanmisi.
“Paul Lee is getting his game back,” said Guiao. “And he’s combining well with the other guards. We’re regaining that old chemistry of ours, this time with Jericho and Maverick stepping up.”
Lee had his best performance in Rain or Shine’s series-clinching 124-99 Game 4 victory against San Miguel Beer in the semifinals where he collected 18 points, two rebounds and five assists.
The win pushed the Elasto Painters to the finals for the sixth time in franchise history – and a shot at a second conference title after winning the Governors’ Cup back in 2012.
During that championship run of RoS, Lee missed the last five games of a seven-game showdown against Star (formerly B-Meg Derby Ace) after he dislocated his left shoulder in Game 2.
In the next four finals appearances of Rain or Shine, they lost to twice to Star (Philippine Cup and Governors’ Cup 2014) and Tropang TNT (2013 Philippine Cup and 2015 Commissioner’s Cup).
Lee said this motivates him to help the Painters win a title.
“Kung tutuusin di pa ako nana-nalo ng championship e,” said Lee. “Nung nag-champion kasi kami alam naman niyo na injured ako nun. Of course masaya nun, pero mas masaya for sure kung makaka-tulong ako.”
“Ito ngayon yung nagmo-motivate sa akin to work hard. Another opportunity sa team pag-pasok namin uli sa finals, so sana makuha na namin,” added Lee, who is averaging 12 points per game in the playoffs.
Late in the evening, Alaska edged Meralco, 76-70, to enter the finals where a well-rested Rain or Shine Elasto Painters await.