PROOF he means well of playing anew for mother ballclub Rain or Shine, controversial guard Paul Lee literally braved the fury of typhoon Mario waded through the flooded streets of the metropolis early Friday just to show bygones had been bygones.
As per the recollection of Lee’s equally controversial manager Lawrence Chongson, the two of them took the risk of travelling all the way to the office of the Asian Coatings Philippines by passing through the flood prone Amang Rodriguez Avenue in Santolan, Pasig at the height of the heavy rains brought about by the latest weather disturbance.
“Matindi na ang baha. Alam namin na hindi na safe sa planta ng Rain or Shine. Pero dahil sa sinabi namin na ngayon kami pupunta… hindi na namin inalintanang dalawa `yung baha,” said Chongson.
“Sinakay ko na lang siya sa SUV ko kasi delikado na kung `yung sedan lang niya ang dadalhin sa Pasig. Kaya nagkita na lang kami sa PBA office sa Libis (Quezon City),” added the former University of the East coach.
Although raining hard, the ride was smooth for both player and agent until they reached the Rain or Shine head office.
“Pagdating namin sa planta, hindi kami makapasok kasi bahang baha sa loob. Pababa kasi `yung planta papasok sa loob,” said Chongson. “Kaya ang nangyari, bumaba pa kami sa SUV ko sa gate. Sinundo na lang kami ng truck ng Rain or Shine sa labas.”
The outspoken agent stressed the ordeal they have to go through on the way to the team’s headquarter is a testimony to Lee’s determination to rejoin the Elasto Painters, notwithstanding the well-publicized dispute between the two parties regarding the new contract of the Rain or Shine star player.
“Patunay ito na talagang desidido si Paul na magbalik sa Rain or Shine. Sa Rain or Shine, pipirma siya ng kontrata,” said Chongson.
“All is well that ends well.”
At the same time, Chongson allayed fears about the sincerity of Lee to return to the same team that selected him no. 2 overall during the 2011 Rookie Draft.
“Nangako si Paul na lalaro ng maganda. Siyempre, professional tayo. Pag hindi siya naglaro ng maganda… siya rin magsa-suffer,” said the mentor of Tanduay Light in the PBA D-League. “Sayang lang galing niya pag di niya nilabas.”
“May ibang tao na nagbaba ng laro pag hindi nakuha ang gusto… ibang tao yun. Tayo naman, once we sign, ibigay mo lahat ng makakaya mo. Sa Gilas nga walang kontrata si Paul, pero todo laro niya ah,” added Chongson.
In return, the franchise also showed how valuable the former Rookie of the Year is to them that co-owners Raymund Yu and Terry Que worked hard to re-sign Lee, while likewise involving the venerable coach Yeng Guiao in the negotiations.
“Ipinaliwanag ko nga sa kanya na after ng lahat ng episode, nakita mo na sobra kang kino-covet ng Rain or Shine. Coveted ka sobra. Talagang ayaw ka nilang pakawalan,” he said.
“Before sinabi nila na pupwedeng ganyan, pwedeng ganun. Pero hindi ganun nangyari sa yo,” said Chongson, head of Tanduay’s basketball operations.
“Nakita natin kung gaano ka nila talaga kagusto. Hinintay ka ng coach. Hinintay ka ng mga owners, bukambibig ka. Pamilya ang trato sa yo… that in itself speaks a lot.
“Na-realize namin tuloy na hindi kami nagkamali to stay (dito sa Rain or Shine)… What’s a few peso kung hindi ka naman ganun ka-covet,” added the long-haired agent.
The meeting also served as the time for Chongson to again reiterate before Rain or Shine management that they never talked to any teams at the height of their negotiations with the ballclub.
“After na napirmahan namin `yung contract, talagang sinabi ko kay Atty. (Maert) Mondragon na wala ni isa kaming team na kinausap. Wala,” he said.
With the Gilas Pilipinas mainstay finally on board again, Chongson was asked how he foresees Lee in the pro league a year from now.
“He signed for two years. So expect ko naman for two years harmonious relationship na kami with Rain or Shine. Hindi kami hihingi ng trade in the duration of the contract,” he said.
“Pero karapatan ng team na gawin yun (i-trade si Paul kung gusto nila). Hindi rin ito amnesty na pipirma kami tapos hihingi ng trade,” added Chongson.
As for Rain or Shine keeping Lee in its fold for the duration of his two-year contract, Chongson feels very optimistic.
“(Pakiramdam ko naman they’ll keep him). Sa buhay naman, if you went for something so much… would you just let it go?” he said.