RAIN or Shine remained very much competitive and on track to gaining an outright semifinals berth in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup even in the absence of top gunner Paul Lee.
So good are the Elasto Painters at this stage of the conference that coach Yeng Guiao can afford to joke that the team may no longer need the services of its star combo guard.
“We’re playing well without him (Lee), baka hindi na namin siya kailangan,” said the outspoken mentor in jest.
But seriously, Guiao praised the collective effort from everybody to hold the fort until Lee recovers from his knee injury and finally see action for the first time in the all-Filipino conference.
“We’re trying to buy time for Paul. Yun ang gusto namin,” stressed Guiao. “We can buy as much time for Paul, that could be the best for the team.”
Rain or Shine is currently tied with Alaska in second place in the standings with similar 7-2 (win-loss) cards, just behind league-leading and defending champion San Miguel (9-1).
A sweep of its two remaining games – including one against also-ran Meralco on Wednesday – will send the team outright to the semis even if it ends up tied with the Aces, who, the Elasto Painters had beaten.
A semis stint would mean extra rest for the team and more time for Lee to recover from a partial tear on the lateral meniscus and ITB (Iliotibial Band) tendon on his left knee which he sustained during the offseason.
“If we’re able to make the semis outright, that gives us time to rest and prepare, and see what stage of recovery Paul is,” said Guiao. “We want to bring him in the semis as much as possible."
At the moment, the 26-year-old guard out of University of the East is still in the process of rehab, according to Guiao.
“Tinanggal na ‘yung brace niya, so meron na siyang light therapy. By next week, he can already work out in the gym,” added the Rain or Shine coach.