THERE'S no doubt in Yeng Guiao's mind that Paul Lee is now the best guard in the PBA.
“I agree - Paul right now is playing his best basketball,” the outspoken Rain or Shine coach told Spin.ph. “Kumpara mo siya sa ibang mga point guard ngayon ha, I can say he is the best.”
Guiao gave his comments just days before the Elasto Painters begin their PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series against Alaska, adding Lee will play a crucial role in the playoff because of the Aces' constant full-court press.
“Lahat naman ng players ko critical sa team, pero with the way Paul is playing now he has an extra value, an added edge na dala-dala niya ngayon. Alam naman ng iba 'yan sa team,” said Guiao.
Lee actually started the season on the wrong foot after a stint with Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba World Cup and the Asian Games as well as messy negotiations for a new two-year deal with Rain or Shine.
But once he settled down, the former UE star has been nothing short of impressive. He currently ranks ninth in the Best Player of the Conference race, trailing only one guard in San Miguel Beer's Alex Cabagnot.
Asked about Lee's cracking form, Guiao cited three major reasons.
“Number one, he’s consistent now. Hindi tulad dati na maganda ang laro niya ngayon, bukas hindi. Number two, he’s in better shape - he’s quicker, faster, stronger and shooting better,” said Guiao.
“Number three, because of his experience from last year (where Rain or Shine played in two finals), with Gilas, he makes better decisions. Yung decision-making niya na-improve, and with that his leadership.
"Mas matalino at knowledgeable siya ngayon!’
Guiao is counting on Lee to get his team going in what he calls an intiguing series starting Thursday between a Rain or Shine team that loves to run and an Alaska side that likes to press.
“Exciting ito. They like the full court press, we love the open court. Magandang kumbinasyon 'yun, magandang salubungan 'yun,” he said.
Guiao also shrugged off the absence of rookie Jericho Cruz due to a broken ankle, saying the return of Jervy Cruz will allow Gabe Norwood to return to his old role in the backcourt.
“Mararamdaman talaga namin siya. Kasi siya pa nga ang hero ng game namin against Alaska noong eliminations,“ he said. “Pero bumalik na si Jervy (Cruz) kaya si Gabe (Norwood), makakababa na sa guard spot. Saka healthy naman na sina Chris (Tiu), TY Tang and Jonathan Uyloan."
Here's a podcast of full interview with Yeng Guiao: