PAUL Lee is playing like he has never been away.
Last season’s Rookie of the Year is picking up from where he left off, leading Rain or Shine to the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals and earning for himself the Accel-PBA Press Corps Player of the Week honors for the period Dec. 10 to 16.
The Elasto Painters’ prized guard showed no ill effects of a forced sidelining since late July due to a shoulder injury and appeared to even be sharper, leading the team to a 2-1 victory over the Barangay Ginebra Kings in their quarterfinals duel.
In those three games, Lee averaged 18.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists, but more importantly willingly took on the mantle of responsibility in the times his team needed it most.
Those facts are not lost on Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.
“Paul came back from his shoulder operation like nothing happened,” said Guiao of their No. 2 overall pick last year.
“He didn’t miss a beat,” added Guiao. “I actually think he even got better because of his four-month break.”
Lee is all too willing to make up for the time lost when he dislocated his left shoulder in the second game of the Governors Cup title series against B-Meg (now San Mig Coffee).
In the series-clinching 102-89 victory last Sunday, the former University of the East star tied his career-high with 25 points, 12 coming during a decisive 23-0 third quarter-surge that firmly installed Rain or Shine ahead.
Eerily, that performance was reminiscent of his exploits in the series opener last Wednesday, when he strung up seven points in the same period that sparked the E-Painters’ break into a 59-31 spread and into a cruising 82-65 win.
“It sure is a lot easier to coach with somebody like Paul around,” noted Guiao. “It’s really a tribute to his talent and hard work why he is successful very early in his career.”
Those victories pushed Rain or Shine into a best-of-game semifinal series with San Mig starting Wednesday and Lee said he has some unfinished business with the Mixers to attend to.
“Hindi ko natapos iyon (title series versus B-Meg) kaya ngayon mayroon akong opportunity na maipakita ko ang talent ko,” said the 23-year-old. “Ito ang chance ko.”(pr)