ONE man so familiar with Yeng Guiao stands in the way of NLEX and its veteran coach in their first-ever appearance in a PBA semifinals.
Paul Lee meets his former mentor in the Philippine Cup semifinals after NLEX advanced deeper into the playoffs and arranged a best-of-seven with Magnolia Pambansang Manok starting on Saturday.
Without batting an eyelash, Guiao was quick to acknowledge the 29-year-old Lee, with whom he won two championships while both were still with Rain or Shibe, will be the biggest thorn in the Road Warriors' side.
"To me, I think he's (Lee) the key," said Guiao shortly after NLEX clinched the first semifinal berth in franchise history on Wednesday night following a two-game sweep of Alaska in the quarterfinals.
The Hotshots and Road Warriors already dueled in the quarterfinals of last season's Governors Cup in Lee and Guiao's first season with their respective teams in which Magnolia swept NLEX in two games.
But this time, the stakes are definitely higher.
Of course, Guiao knows the combo guard from University of the East like the back of his hand. It was Guiao who picked Lee at No. 2 overall in the 2011 PBA Rookie Draft.
Together, they helped transform Rain or Shine into a consistent title contender in a stretch that saw the franchise make the finals six times and win the 2012 Governors Cup and 2016 Commissioner's Cup championships.
Ironically, when Guiao left the Elasto Painters to take the coaching job at NLEX, Lee followed suit after being dealt to Magnolia in a celebrated one-on-one trade with James Yap.
Now their paths are about to cross again.
For someone who has handled Lee for six years and saw his transformation into one of the deadliest guards in the league today, Guiao believes the Magnolia stalwart will make things difficult for the Road Warriors in the semis.
"Maybe," he curtly replied when told that if there's one person who really knows Lee so well, it should be him.
"That's why I think he's the biggest problem because I know him that well," added Guiao. "Kilala ko siya, kaya alam ko malaki ang problema namin kay Paul."
It is imperative for the Road Warriors' backcourt rotation then to limit the production of the player referred to as 'Angas ng Tondo.'
"We need to control Paul," said Guiao. "I think Paul dictates the tempo with his scoring ability and passing. He can easily get a double-double with his scoring and passing."