by Waylon Galvez
A hard chop on the wrist, an elbow hit there, a hard pick down the baseline, and then a little ‘trash talk’ – that is all part of the battle between PBA veterans Paul Lee of the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok and Chris Ross of reigning four-time Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer.
Through three games in the Finals series of the all-Filipino conference, the two playmakers are at it again, just like their previous meetings that make their rivalry one of the highlights of the series.
Lee said his little competition with Ross started during their amateur days in the now-defunct Philippine Basketball League, and when he joined the PBA in 2011 as a member of Rain or Shine.
Both players consider it just a ‘friendly’ competition.
“Siguro yun lang yung competitiveness naming dalawa,” said Lee, who has three championships in the PBA, a Rookie of the Year award in 2012, a PBA Press Corps Finals MVP in 2016 Commissioner’s Cup, and a Best Player of the Conference in last season’s Governors’ Cup – the same conference he won his first title with Magnolia after his first two with ROS.
“Siguro normal yun as a player. At the end of the game, we’re friends. Alam naman namin na hanggang dun lang yun,” Lee added.
Ross shares the same sentiments, knowing that it’s all part of the game.
“Two competitors competing (and) leaving it all on the floor,” said Ross, who now has won six PBA championships all with SMB, a pair of Finals MVP and a Best Player award during the 2017 Commissioner’s Cup.
“I don’t expect nonetheless from him, and I’m sure he doesn’t nonetheless from me. We are just out there competing, leaving it all on the floor, trying to will our team to victory that’s it,” he added.
In the Philippine Cup finals series, Magnolia took Game 1 with a 99-94 win, and though there was little action between the two, Lee torched Ross emotionally as he dropped 18 points while the latter struggled with five points on 2-of-11 shooting from the field.
Game 2 saw Ross draw a big play down the stretch with an offensive foul on Lee and the former responded with a yell, one of the game’s highlights as San Miguel went on to level the best-of-seven series at 1-1 with a 108-101 victory.
In Game 3, Lee inadvertently hit Ross with an elbow while driving to the basket, which floored the latter. A few seconds after that, Ross stole the ball from Lee but had a turnover – Lee smiled at Ross after the play.
Lee said he and Ross understands that it’s just a game, and with the stakes now higher as Magnolia is aiming for back-to-back titles after taking the Governors’ Cup last season while SMB is gunning for a fifth straight all-Filipino conference title, the action heats up.
“Kumbaga, championship ‘to e, ini-expect naman namin yun sa isa’t-isa. After that, ok na uli,” added Lee.