AS expected, Paul Lee was at his best when Rain or Shine battled Barangay Ginebra on the final day of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup elimination round on Easter Sunday.
Lee was once more the thorn in the side of the Kings as he tallied 25 points, four rebounds, six assists, and a steal in the Elasto Painters’ dramatic 105-101 win in overtime.
The combo guard out of University of the East doesn’t hide the fact that playing against the franchise he considered his favorite in Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league, brings out the best in him.
That was evident from the first game the 23-year-old Lee played in the pro ranks, where, ironically, he ended up playing against his favorite team in 2011.
He ended up leading Rain or Shine to a nail-biting 94-93 win behind his 21 points, eight assists, five rebounds, and a couple of important free throws down the stretch.
“Maganda rin kasi `yung naging simula ko, nung pagpasok ko Ginebra agad ang kalaban. Kaya siguro naisip ko na laging ganun (magpakita ng maganda),” Lee told Spin.ph.
Lee was at it again on Sunday when the Elasto Painters sent the Kings reeling to their sixth loss in nine outings to finish as the eighth-seeded team entering the playoffs of the mid-season conference.
Rain or Shine ended up as the fourth seeded team with a 5-4 (win-loss) record.
“Hindi ko alam (kung bakit natataon na maganda laro ko against Ginebra) eh, siguro natutuwa ako maraming tao,” said the soft-spoken pride of Tondo, Manila.
“Usually Ginebra talaga lahat halos ng games na magandang nilalaro ko, naalala ko lahat puro Ginebra,” Lee said.
The Gilas Pilipinas pool member admitted the sight of a sellout crowd during every Ginebra game gives him an adrenalin rush.
Pag nagche-cheer 'yung Ginebra fans, natutuwa ako. Parang feeling ko dun na rin ako naglalaro sa kanila, yun nga lang, kalaban ako,” Lee said with a laugh.
“Nadadala ako sa dami ng tao, sa mga nanonood, sa mga nagche-cheer. Saka siyempre, Ginebra eh. Iba ang feeling pag tinalo mo. Maganda tignan, fan favorite,” he added.
Then again, Lee professed how he grew up watching and supporting the games of the league’s most popular ballclub.
“Kung wala ako sa PBA, fan ako ng Ginebra. Kung wala kaming laro, kunwari kalaban nila Meralco, Ginebra ako,” he disclosed.
“Lumaki rin kasi ako na Ginebra ang tsine-cheer ko.”
And the Rain or Shine stalwart admitted being a big fan of Ginebra’s acknowledged heart and soul, Mark Caguioa.
“Si Mark talaga ang idol ko. Lumaki ako na siya ang napapanood ko. After ng game nila gagayahin ko. Yun ang kinalakihan ko,” he said.
Although known as one of the most notorious trash talkers in the PBA, Lee said he keeps his mouth shut when playing against his boyhood idol.
“Never ko inaasar si Mark, alam ko na hindi maasar 'yun. Ang tagal na niya sa liga. Hindi ko rin maasar 'yun. Sayang lang (ang effort),” Lee said about the former MVP.
“Sa sobrang tagal na niya (Caguioa), nasu-shoot pa rin niya kahit anong depensa ko, ang dami niyang galaw. Alam niya gagawin niya. Pag gamit ng ball screen, pag libre siya tira agad.”
With the current struggle the Kings are facing, which Lee and the Elasto Painters made even worse following their overtime win, the Ginebra fan in Lee couldn’t help but ask one big favor from his kabarangays.
“Sana suportahan pa rin nila 'yung Ginebra, kahit nag-i-struggle yung team nila. Dun sila nakilala eh, never-say-die. Sana huwag nilang iwanan yung team nila,” said Lee.
Asked about the prospect of Rain or Shine someday meeting Ginebra in a potentially explosive championship series, Lee’s eyes readily glowed.
“Finals? Napakasarap na game 'nun. Every game sold out,” he said.