IN a sudden change of heart, Rain or Shine declared on Friday it is willing to trade any of its players - including star guard Paul Lee - to get its hands on a star big man.
Rain or Shine governor Mert Mondragon told Spin.ph they are now open to trade talks, even for its two first-round picks in the first round of the PBA rookie draft, just to fill a long-standing void in its center position.
The franchise, a two-time finalist last season, has never had a dominant big man, usually making do with undersized frontliners like Beau Belga and JR Quinahan.
"Kahit sino pwede nilang kunin sa amin. Bastat papalitan nila ng isang big man na kailangan namin. Pwede kaming mag-usap," said Mondragon, adding they are willing to do deals even with teams from the San Miguel Beer organization.
"Kahit sa San Miguel. Pwede kaming makipag-trade. Tamang-tama, marami silang big man, di ba?" said Mondragon.
Mondragon's intriguing declaration comes at a time when speculations are high that other teams including San Miguel are after Lee, who has carved a reputation as one of the top guards in the PBA today.
"Kahit si Paul, puwede namin i-trade. Basta't sabi ko nga, ibigay sa amin ang big man na kailangan namin. 'Yun na lang kasi ang kulang sa team namin eh," said the Elasto Painters manager.
Asked if the move to put Lee on the trading block was a sign that the team is giving up on its bid to renew his contract that expires at the end of the month, Mondragon said such was not the case.
"Hindi naman. Kami naman confident kami na mapapapirma ulit namin siya. Kasi maximum naman alok namin sa kanya," he said.
Mondragon admitted team officials have yet to get in touch with Lee, who is in Vitoria, Spain with the Gilas Pilipinas team for its buildup for the Fiba World Cup.
"Hindi pa namin makontak si Paul eh. Kahit sa Viber nya. Pero tumawag na rin ako sa nanay niya," he said.
The trusted Rain or Shine official even bared that a three-year offer to Lee has already been sent to his condo unit in Pasig and to his parents in Tondo, Manila.
Lee's agent Lawrence Chongson, who is reportedly asking for a juicier deal, has yet to be furnished with the tender offer for Lee, he added.
"Wala pang kopya kaming napapadala kay Lawrence. Baka bukas pa namin ipadala sa kanya," said Mondragon.
Meanwhile, Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao expressed surprise at the latest pronouncement of team management, but made it clear that no one is considered a sacred cow in the team.
"Walang indispensable sa team namin. Ever since alam nila yun. Kung kunwari may nawala, makaka-hanap naman tayo ng kapalit. Hindi nga lang guarantee na mapapalitan agad, pero magagawan ng paraan," Guiao said.
"Lahat naman ng problemang dumarating, nasosolusyunan. So kung nagsalita nga ang management ng ganun, wala tayo magagawa."
Rain or Shine returns to practice on Monday minus Lee and fellow Gilas cagers Beau Belga, Gabe Norwood and Jeff Chan.