AFTER the Philippines fell short of the Fiba Asia championship and a trip to the Olympic Games, the agent of Paul Lee has vowed to take steps to make sure the crack guard from Rain or Shine will be available for future national teams.
While praising the performance of Gilas Pilipinas 3.0, Lawrence Chongson said there were several instances in the title match against host China when he felt a player with Lee's skills could have made an impact for the Philippines.
Gilas lost to the hosts, 67-78.
“I am not saying na kailangang-kailangan talaga si Paul Lee kagabi. Pero may mga instances na nakita ko na dapat andun siya, kung nabigyan sana siya ng chance (to play),” said Chongson, a former coach of University of the East and now the head of basketball operations of Tanduay.
“Kasi if you are going to look back, mas maganda sana ang tandem sa backcourt ni Paul at Jayson Castro. Parehong combo guard who can create for themselves and their teammates,” he added.
Chongson, a former national team assistant coach, said he believed a player of Lee's size and skills could have a better chance of getting clear shots against the tall and rangy Chinese defenders.
Lee proved that during the 2014 Fiba Asia Cup in China when he fished a foul against more or less the same Chinese team and made the three free throws that carried Gilas to victory.
“(Kagabi) alam ko na kailangan ng team yan (Lee), and you feel helpless na hindi siya makatulong. Alam nang buong Pilipinas 'yan (kakayahan sana ni Paul na makatulong),” Chongson said.
“Kagabi I saw how his outside shooting could have helped, steady siya. Si Paul kasi you don’t have to find him, he find ways to create his shots and for his teammates, may stepback three-pointer pa yan.
“Saka yung pakikipagbanggan sa mas malalaking bantay, kayang kaya sana ni Paul 'yun eh.”
The experienced bench tactician believes that a Jayson Castro-Lee tandem in the backcourt could have played a pivotal role for the Philippines against the Chinese.
“The best guard dyan (sa present Gilas pool) si Castro. Pero na-imagine ko kung sila ni Paul nag-tandem, maganda sana 'yun for us. 'Yun ang potent na kumbinasyon eh. Parehong combo guard yun eh,” said the Tanduay Light coach in the PBA D-League.
Lee was not included in the Gilas roster after a misunderstanding between national coach Tab Baldwin and Rain or Shine's owners, who made Gabe Norwood available to the team and no one else.
Chongson, though, said he is willing to go to the extent of demanding a clause in the contract that will guarantee Lee's participation in the national team once the former UE star's contract expires at the end of last season.
“Mag-e-expire na ang kontrata ni Paul sa kanila next year. Pero you can quote me: Kung pipirma kami ulit, igigiit ko yung rights ni Paul na irepresent ang country, dapat nasa amin,” he said.
“Dapat pag tinawag ka ng bandila mo, tutugon ka. We can’t just allow some people to play God. Karangalan ng bansa ang nakasalalay rito. Basketball ang number one sport natin,” added Chongson.
“Maganda nga wag na nila i-renew si Paul eh, itrade na nila sa MVP group pala wala nang problema sa national team participation. Pero joke lang yun ha,” he said laughing.
Chongson bared he wanted to drag Lee to Gilas practice prior to the Fiba Asia Championship.
“Muntik ko nang kaladkarin 'yan mula sa kama nya at dadalin ko sa Gilas practice one month before the Fiba Asia. Kasi gusto ko talagang lumaro siya sa national team and very frustrated ako. Alam ko kasi madami ang opportunities na mawawala sa kanya,” he said.
“Ayaw ko kasi dumating ang isang araw na pagsisihan ni Paul at isipin na, ‘Minsan sa buhay ko, hindi ako nakatulong sa bayan ko', kasi ready naman siya to serve,” added Chongson.
The most trusted basketball lieutenant of sport patron Bong Tan, however, stressed fans should not overlook the accomplishments of the present Gilas lineup.
“We shouldn’t take anything away from the present Gilas pool. Nag-sacrifice sila ng husto and they were able to mightily bring us to the finals. They deserve all the accolades because they made us proud,” he said.
“Pero nothing against the players, we still sent the best players there. Gusto ko pa ring i-remind sa lahat na the players who played in the last Fiba Asia are heroic and they made us proud,” he said.