Paul Lee pulls out of Gilas pool with knee injury

MANILA, Philippines – Another man down. 

The Philippine national men’s basketball team will have to make do without the explosiveness and playmaking of star Rain or Shine guard Paul Lee as he has pulled out of the Gilas Pilipinas pool with a nagging knee injury.

Wearing street clothes, the 27-year-old personally relayed to head coach Tab Baldwin the news on Tuesday, May 24 during the team’s morning practice. 

Tinanong niya kung out daw ba ako sabi ko ‘yes, coach.’ Yun, out ako,” Lee told reporters. “Mag-skip talaga ako ngayon Gilas tapos sinabi niya na rin sa buong team para kahit papaano alam na rin ng buong team and makapag-prepare na ng maayos.” 

(He asked me if I’m out and I told him ‘yes, coach.’ So there, I’m out. I’m skipping Gilas now and coach told the whole team so they know and they can prepare well without me.)

Medyo lumuwag din yung pakiramdam ko (I feel lighter after telling him),” added Lee, who was unable to practice with Gilas at all since November 2015, when the team started once-a-week trainings in preparation for the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament happening here from July 5 to 10. 

Paul Lee ( @lethalweapon03) is skipping Gilas Pilipinas duties for the FIBA OQT — Rappler Sports (@RapplerSports) May 24, 2016

Lee, the newly-minted Finals MVP and PBA champion barely a week ago, admitted the recurring injury to his left knee has not yet fully healed despite his splendid play in the Commissioner’s Cup playoffs. (READ: From his battle with injury, Paul Lee rises to Finals MVP)

Fluids persisted in his left knee due to the tear, reportedly to his lateral meniscus, and he needs to undergo platelet-rich plasma (PRP) sessions coupled with rest to get better. He expects to recover in 5 to 6 weeks after the PRP treatment. 

Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao was the only one aware of Lee’s situation, which explains the way Lee’s minutes have been managed. Lee also relied on painkillers in the playoffs. 

Malungkot para sa akin lalo na dito gagawin sa atin yung laro. Medyo masakit para sa akin na mag-skip ako ngayon. Pero wala tayong magagawa,” he rued. (I’m sad especially because the games will be played here. It hurts for me to skip now. But we can’t do anything about it.)

Paul Lee says it hurts to not play for #Gilas especially since the games will be played in Manila — Rappler Sports (@RapplerSports) May 24, 2016

‘It’s reality’ 

Baldwin accepted losing Lee, underscoring his years of international coaching experience. 

“That’s a tragedy for Paul. He’s had so many problems with his knee, he’s had so many problems with his body and we said a special prayer for him that he get those things right,” Baldwin explained. “As for Gilas, that’s a misfortune for us because I just said to him I think we can certainly use your skillset and the way he was playing in the finals, I think he would be an asset for the team. 

“But we don’t have him so I’m not gonna sit around crying over spilled milk. It’s reality, it happens every single year.” 

“We just wish him the best, he’s a fallen brother. We hope he gets back on his feet as soon as possible and gets to full health. As for Gilas, we move on.”

Baldwin instead focused on the positive energy from practice and the return of other pool members Gabe Norwood and Jeff Chan after the PBA Finals, though Chan sat out to recuperate from an injury. Alaska’s Calvin Abueva asked permission to Baldwin the night before to take the day to deal with personal issues. 

Gunner Marcio Lassiter has also returned after taking time off to heal from a knee injury since the PBA playoffs. 

“Hardly ever in my career have I gone into any season or campaign with a fully healthy team. It’s part of the parcel of being in professional sports and there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said. “We just wish him the best, he’s a fallen brother. We hope he gets back on his feet as soon as possible and gets to full health. As for Gilas, we move on.” –