MANILA, Philippines – More than a year after going their separate ways in the PBA, Yeng Guiao and Paul Lee continue to impact each other’s careers.
The tandem had a successful run in Rain or Shine, with Guiao steering Lee and the Elasto Painters to two championships before the team fractured ahead of the 2016-17 PBA season. Lee was traded to the Purefoods franchise in exchange for James Yap, and Guiao left to become the new coach of NLEX. It was the end of an era in every sense of the word.
Still, the bond that Guiao and Lee had formed since 2011 could not be easily broken by trades and coaching changes. Even up to now, as he shines for a different team, and as their teams battle in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals, Lee continues to draw motivation from his former coach.
In Game 1 of their series, Lee was limited to eight points on 3-of-10 shooting. He also committed five turnovers, and the Magnolia Hotshots were beaten by the Road Warriors, 88-87. There was no way that Lee would perform so poorly again, and in Game 2, he proceeded to torch his former coach’s team for 27 points. The Hotshots won comfortably, 99-84, to tie the best-of-7 series at one game apiece.
Lee would admit after the game that Guiao had something to do with his bounce-back game.
“Sa tagal ng pinagsamahan namin, inisip ko na kung siya pa rin ‘yung pinaglalaruan kong coach, for sure hindi rin siya magiging happy sa performance ko,” said Lee. “So ‘yun lang, ginamit ko lang na motivation ‘yung going into this game.”
Lee was certain that had he still been playing for Guiao, he would have gotten an earful following his Game 1 performance.
“Of course, mapapagalitan niya ako,” the guard said.
Lee was quick to point out that the Magnolia coaching staff reacted the same way: they were not satisfied with how he played in Game 1. That, combined with the thought of his former coach’s reaction, and it was no surprise that Lee came up big in Game 2.
“Kailangan lang talaga na mag-bounce back, kasi very big game ‘tong Game 2 sa amin,” he said. “Kailangan maka-even kami sa series na ‘to.”
The Road Warriors had no answer for Lee all throughout the game. He exceeded his Game 1 output in the opening frame, as he tallied 10 points. He would go on to score in all possible ways, from pull-up triples to his trademark hanging jumpers and drives to the hoop.
“Aggressive lang from the start,” said Lee. “Ang mission ko is ‘yung mahawa ‘yung teammates ko na maging aggressive sa start. Nag-respond naman.”
Guiao, meanwhile, was not surprised that Lee responded to a poor game with a sterling effort; nor was he surprised to hear that his former player continued to draw motivation from him.
“Mumurahin ko lang naman siya kung ganoon kasama… baka iniisip niya, minumura ko siya,” Guiao said in jest.
The sharp-tongued coach went on to warn that the Road Warriors will continue to pile pressure on Lee as their semifinals series goes on.
“I expected that. He can come back,” said Guiao.
“But he also knows we will prepare harder for him the next time. Alam din niya na ano eh, kung pinaghahandaan namin ‘yung Magnolia, he is one of the priorities in the game plan,” he added.
“So, maghahanap kami ulit ng paraan para pahirapan siya sa susunod.”