MANILA—Rain or Shine, starring rookie Paul Lee, gets its first true test Friday when the surprising Elasto Painters clash with rock-solid Talk ‘N Text for the lead in the PBA Philippine Cup on the line at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Game time is at 5:15 p.m. with the Painters seeking to extend a two-game run credited mostly to super rookie Paul Lee, the second overall draft choice this season.
The stocky former University of the East ace has taken over the Painters in so short a time, relegating former Rookie of the Year Gabe Norwood to the background with impressive all-around numbers of 20 points, five rebounds and 5.5 assists.
“He’s physically tough, mentally tough. He’s just special, you just can’t coach that,” Guiao told Inquirer.net recently. “We’re trying to give him all the confidence he needs. And at the same time he’s jelling well with our other players.”
Expected to take turns trying to shackle Lee are Ryan Reyes, Jason Castro, Jared Dillinger and maybe even Aaron Aban.
Meanwhile, crowd-darling Barangay Ginebra seeks a second straight win against Barako Bull in the 7:30 p.m. contest.
The Kings will be led by Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand, who scored seven straight points in a fourth quarter team that allowed Ginebra to zoom past Alaska, 83-72, last Sunday.
Barako Bull, meanwhile, is coming off a 95-83 defeat to Petron Blaze.
Lee has been the playmaker, finisher and quarterback all at the same time for the Painters, a young squad looking to make it deep in the playoffs for the first time.
“What I’m aiming for is to have eight or nine assists,” Lee told Inquirer.net when asked on what improvements he still needs to make in his game. “Plus, I still have to improve on my defense.”
Aside from Norwood, Ryan Araña, Jervy Cruz, Beau Belga and the comebacking Ronnie Matias will be playing key roles for Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.
Guiao and Talk ‘N Text coach Chot Reyes, incidentally, didn’t have a cordial last meeting after almost coming to blows in a tuneup match before the start of the season.
Reyes, who won the Coach of the Year award from the PBA Press Corps at the end of last month, had publicly apologized to Guiao and Petron Blaze coach Ato Agustin, and it would be worthy to note how Guiao and Reyes would treat each other tonight.
Japeth Aguilar will be Reyes’ main man after the 6-foot-9 beanpole flashed a sterling 27-point effort against Meralco last week.
“My teammates gave me the confidence I needed,” said Aguilar, who is hoping to break out of riding the bench mostly during his stint as a member of the national team.
Ali Peek and Harvey Carey are the other frontliners for Reyes with Ranidel de Ocampo expected to be a crucial factor with his versatility—if he is given the go-signal to play.
“Our problem now is getting our three national players (reigning MVP Jimmy Alapag, athletic rebounder and rim rattler Kelly Williams and versatile forward Ranidel de Ocampo) back from injury,” Reyes said after his team’s rout of Meralco.