PAUL Lee's bronze medal-clinching free throws against China in the last Fiba-Asia Cup have become a cause for celebration among Gilas Pilipinas fans - and inevitably sparked debate, primarily because of the circumstances that set the stage for his late-game heroics.
The new Gilas recruit from Rain or Shine clinched the 80-79 win for Gilas in the consolation match when he fished a foul from Chinese defender Wang Zhelin while attempting a three-point shot then calmly sank the three game-winning free throws with no time left.
However, the irony of the situation wasn't lost on fans since Lee got involved in more or less the same play just two weeks earlier in Game One of the last PBA Governors Cup Finals against San Mig when he tried to fish a foul from Marc Pingris with Rain or Shine trailing by three points, 101-104.
Jimmy Mariano, the referee closest to the play, refused to blow his whistle and Commissioner Chito Salud later upheld his decision, saying it was a "borderline 50-50 call."
That differed with the opinion of PBA technical consultant Perry Martinez, who, acting as a technical analyst for TV5, said he thought a foul should have been called in the play.
A day after arriving from Wuhan, China, Spin.ph decided to ask Lee himself to compare the two calls. Here is what he had to say.
"Mas matindi talaga yung sabit sa akin nung kay Marc Pingris, tumama talaga. 'Yung foul sa akin sa China, tumama rin pero hindi ganoon kalakas sa tama nung kay Pingris," Lee said.
"Mas malala talaga 'yung tama nung kay Pingris," he reiterated.
Lee's coach at Rain or Shine, Yeng Guiao, had waded into the dispute just moments after his star guard's late heroics in Wuhan, saying the foul called on the Chinese defender in the final play was a "validation of the argument we put forward in Game One."
"Kaya nga nung nabasa ko 'yung interview kay coach Yeng (Guiao) sabi ko tama ito. Kailangan ko pa pala maglaro sa China para masabi na foul talaga," the former University of the East star said.
However, some fans also made a valid argument on Spin.ph's comments section and social media sites, pointing out that PBA and international referees tend to differ in calling fouls based on the degree of contact.
Lee admitted that in both cases, he tried to fish for a foul out of desperation.
"Oo, initiate ko din talaga 'yun, nilapit ko din yung katawan ko para tamaan ako," said the hard-banging guard from Tondo, Manila. "Parehas na parehas ang intensyon ko nun. Kasi wala nang oras noon eh. Ano pa ba ang gagawin ko? E di mag-pa-foul bait na lang ako."
To listen to full interview with Paul Lee, go to:
Rain or Shine team co-owner Terry Que rued the two different decisions on "the same foul situation."
"Yun nga nakita ko eh. Sabi ko bakit sa China, tinawagan. Dito hindi tinawagan. Homecourt pa ng kalaban 'yun," said the Rain or Shine co-owner.