MANILA, Philippines — So far, so good for the rookies.
Paul Lee of Rain or Shine, Chris Lutz of Petron Blaze and Marcio Lassiter of Powerade are living up to their pre-season hype by dishing out exceptional performances during the opening week of the PBA 37th Season Philippine Cup.
With Lee and Lutz delivering solid numbers, the Elasto Painters and the Boosters have won their first two assignments to share the early lead.
In his first two games with Rain or Shine, the 6-foot-2 Lee, the second overall pick in the PBA Rookie Draft last August, has averaged a team-best 20.5 points, four rebounds and 6.5 assists coming off the bench for coach Yeng Guiao.
In Rain or Shine’s 94-93 victory against Barangay Ginebra in the opener last Oct. 2, the former University of the East stalwart debuted with 21 points, five rebounds, eight assists and two steals, better numbers than the Kings’ Mark Caguioa (16 points), a player Lee is being compared.
The 22-year-old Lee struggled a bit opposite the Tigers last Sunday because of foul trouble, but he matched teammate Jeff Chan’s scoring production of 19 points with five rebounds and three assists as Rain or Shine outlasted Powerade, 96-93.
Guiao commended Lee’s efforts, despite committing four errors against the Tigers, and an ill-advised three-point shot late in the game.
“He made one or two mis-judgments (late in the game),” Guiao said. “Well, Paul is still young, he’s still a rookie. But as I’ve said, Paul Lee’s especial, he’s jelling well with the other players. The team chemistry is getting better.”
The 6-foot-4 Lutz, on the other hand, has played well for Petron despite joining the team just a week before the PBA opening.
Lutz was tabbed by the Boosters as the No. 3 pick in the draft, but he didn’t join the team’s training in preparation for the Philippine Cup since he was a member of the Smart Gilas that competed in the FIBA-Asia Championship in Wuhan, China.
However, that didn’t matter as Lutz averaged 18 points in the first two games. He led the Boosters with 19 points in a 73-69 win against the B-Meg Llamados and had 17 markers in a 95-83 triumph versus Barako Bull.
“He’s a big reason why we’re 2-0 at the moment. Chris Lutz proved that he’s ready to play in the PBA,” said Petron coach Ato Agustin.
Lutz, together with Lassiter, is known for his defense when he was with Smart-Gilas, but in the PBA, he’s showing that he can also be a big threat on offense with his outside shooting.
Lassiter – the No. 4 pick – has also shown poise, displaying his ability to defend even against taller opponents and his offensive skills. He had 10 points in a win against newcomer Shopinas.com, but early foul trouble limited his playing minutes in a setback to Rain or Shine.
Other rookies have also played solid games, like Barako Bull’s Allein Maliksi, the MVP during the inaugural season of the PBA D-League and was taken No. 8 in the draft by the Energy, who had 15 points and seven rebounds against Petron.
Alaska’s Mac Baracael, another Smart-Gilas product who was picked seventh overall, debuted with 20 points in an 83-72 loss to Ginebra last Sunday.
Games Wednesday (Smart-Araneta Coliseum)
5:15 p.m. — Shopinas.com vs Meralco
7:30 p.m. — Alaska vs B-Meg