MARC Pingris and Allein Maliksi came to the defense of Star teammate Paul Lee in the wake of criticism questioning his desire to play for the national team.
Hotshots management was forced to pull Lee out of the Gilas Pilipinas 5.0 pool owing to a lingering knee injury that has hounded Lee back when he was still with Rain or Shine.
What doesn’t sit well with critics is that the 28-year-old Lee remains available to play for the Hotshots in the Commissioner’s Cup, playing for the team in a tune-up game last week just two days after Maliksi took his spot in the national pool.
Pingris, a former Gilas mainstay who teamed up with Lee in the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Spain, said critics hardly understand Lee’s injury situation.
“Si Paul kasi, sa Spain pa kami, masakit na talaga tuhod niyan,” Pingris said in a chat with SPIN.ph after practice on Tuesday. “Yun naman ang mga problema sa aming mga player eh, pag may masakit sa amin, hindi naman naiitindihan ng mga fans yan eh. Ang akala nila, ganun-ganun lang ang trabaho ng mga player.”
“Pero sa amin, kung walang masakit o wala kaming iniinda, maglalaro naman kami eh,” he added. “Si Paul, gusto niya maglaro, pero tuhod niya, kailangan niyang ipahinga.”
Maliksi echoed Pingris’ sentiments.
“Baka yung mga critics, hindi nila alam yung situation ng player,” the rising star wingman said. “Madali kasi mag-judge ng isang tao eh… Si Paul yung mas nakakaalam ng situation.”
Pingris and Maliksi explained that Gilas training is different from that of their mother teams and will definitely take a toll on Lee if he juggles both.
“Ang training kasi sa Gilas, iba. Iba dito sa PBA, iba sa Gilas,” Pingris said. “Nagta-twice-a-day ka dun, talagang bugbog ka talaga dun.”
Maliksi, who took part in the first of Gilas' Monday-only practices, agreed.
“Kung si Paul lalaro siya ngayon ng national team, magpa-practice siya tapos magpa-practice rin ulit dito (sa Star), so talagang yung injury niya, talagang bugbog. Hindi na nakaka-recover,” Maliksi said.
“Eh ngayon kasi, day-to-day basis yung ginagawa ni Paul sa injury niya; paminsan, okay yung tuhod niya, tapos minsan, magshu-shut down bigla. Kailangan niyang mag-rest, minsan hindi siya nagpa-practice sa amin.”
Pingris advised Lee to take his time to recover fully until the time comes that he can juggle club and country duties again.
“Kung pipilitin niya yung sarili niya, like example, yung nangyari kay June Mar (Fajardo) before yan eh, yung masakit yung tuhod niya; hindi naman siya naglaro eh,” Pingris said. “Pero tingnan mo naman ngayon, talagang siya yung number one player natin sa Pilipinas, dahil talagang walang makakapigil sa kanya.”
“Ganun din kay Paul, wag niya sigurong pilitin kung hindi niya kaya. Kung hindi, career niya yung nakataya dyan eh,” he added. “Pero gusto niya talaga maglaro (sa Gilas).”
Maliksi feels it will only be a disservice to Gilas if Lee plays despite not being in top shape.
“Mas important yung health niya rather than (mag-sacrifice siya at) hindi rin naman siya makakatulong,” he said.