DAYS after Rain or Shine management opened the possibility of Paul Lee joining the Gilas Pilipinas 3.0 pool, national coach Tab Baldwin has yet to see even just a shadow of the wide-bodied combo guard in practice.
As far as he's concerned, Baldwin said it is beyond his control.
“Is Paul an extremely talented player? We all know that he is. He is definitely one of the best three or four guards in the PBA this season. Will there be a place in Gilas? Of course, there would,” the national coach said.
“But time moves on. Situation and scenario have changed. The door isn’t open for anybody forever,” he added.
Spin.ph had previously reported that Rain or Shine management had softened up a bit in its stand to lend just one player to the Gilas team ahead of the Fiba Asia men's championship in Changsha, China.
According to insiders, RoS co-owner Raymond Yu offered to make Lee available to Gilas, but on the condition that Gilas chooses between him and Elasto Painters teammate Gabe Norwood.
Baldwin didn't confirm on whether the offer was true or not, but insisted the choice was no longer his to make at that point since Norwood had been attending Gilas training since July 29.
“There was a point in time very recently where it was put to me what I consider a choice, but Gabe was already in camp. At a time when the choice was given to me, Gabe was already in camp,” said Baldwin.
They Said It!
“I'd rather have both of them on my team. But if I were to choose just one of them, I would pick Gabe Norwood over Paul Lee. Yes, Paul Lee can score in anyway he wants, but the team needs Norwood's height and defense. Plus he can play multiple positions. Just my thought" - Franklin Antonio
“It’s not like you’re gonna send away a player of the quality of Gabe. A guy who has done so much for the program as he has, you’re gonna send him away? I think you’d agree with me on that,” he said.
Baldwin bared that he’d love to see Norwood and Lee together at Gilas, but it’s already beyond his control.
“I’d dearly love to have them both. But you have Gabe, he came in the first day and we appreciate Rain or Shine for giving him,” he said. “Of course, I do value the time already shared by Gabe with us.”
And as much as he wanted to have Lee, one of Gilas' best performers during the 2014 Fiba World Cup and Asian Games, Baldwin said such a possibility is now beyond his control.
“There are process that we have to follow. We don’t just go off and make decisions. I have to talk to management people," he said.
“We had twelve practices already. There’s been a lot of teaching, there’s been a lot of progress with the guys that have been there. So anybody that we bring in now, and believe me we might need to, then we have to go back all the way to square one with him and that will be very disruptive to the environment."
The 57-year-old former New Zealand and Lebanon national coach, however, insisted the door is still open for new members of the Gilas pool.
“The door is open. It’s going to close, whether that’s tomorrow or two weeks from now. I have to make that decision based on what’s happening in the camp,” he said.
“I would look favorably on other players coming in, but I wanna know what their intentions are, what their commitments are,” he added.
Lee’s agent Lawrence Chongson did not hide his disappointment over his ward not being able to join Gilas.
“Nalulungkot talaga kami. Kasi si Paul gusto maglaro. Ako gusto ko siya lumaro sa Gilas. Kasi para sa kanya rin 'yan. Mas ma-i-improve ang laro niya pag nae-expose siya sa international basketball. Kaso hindi naming kontrolado yan eh,” said Chongson.
With this development, the outspoken former UE Red Warriors coach declared that when they renegotiate a contract with Rain or Shine at the end of the coming season, they will seek a clause allowing Lee to play for the country.
“Hihilingin ko talaga 'yun. Kasi last time nung nag-negotiate kami, hindi ko naisip 'yun eh. Mabait ang Rain or Shine magpahiram ng players dati. Kaya nga sabi ko sa 'yo, nagtaka ako nung biglang nagbago ang ihip ng hangin,” said Chongson.