RAIN or Shine will be back to full strength in the semifinals of the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup as top gunner Paul Lee is expected to return to active duty when the Elasto Painters face defending champion San Miguel at the start of their best-of-seven series on January 5.
Coach Yeng Guiao assured the comeback of the six-foot guard, who is on the way to recovery from the knee injury he suffered prior to the start of the season.
“Paul is going to play in the semis,” said Guiao after the Elasto Painters formalized their entry to the next round by ousting TNT Monday night, 104-89 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Lee, the acknowledged heart-and-soul of the franchise, has yet to see action for Rain or Shine in the all-Filipino conference.
But he’s currently undergoing strength conditioning now that should make him ready by the time Game One of the semis gets underway almost a week from now, also at the MoA.
“By January, he (Lee) can be ready. He may not be 100 percent by January 5 but he can be there quickly,” said Guiao of the former Rookie of the Year.
Lee was in street clothes and sat on the far end of the Rain or Shine bench during its knockout game against TNT. From time to time, he would talk and egg young teammates Raymond Almazan, Don Trollano, and Jewel Ponferrada on.
“The reason we also wanted to win this game is because we wanted to Paul to participate, we wanted Paul to be able to contribute, and he’s just aching to play,” added Guiao.
Even without Lee on the court, the Elasto Painters managed to hold the fort, finishing as the third-seeded team entering the playoffs, and eventually earning an eighth straight appearance in the semifinals.
Guiao doesn’t see chemistry problem once the combo guard out of University of the East earns back his starting spot in the team.
“He can be there very quickly,” said the outspoken mentor. “Paul is very determined and he’s very talented so it won’t take much time.”