Before Donatas Motiejunas headed to McAllen for his most recent NBA Development League assignment — or it might have been the one before, with far too many in the books to keep track — he asked to go.

With no playing time with the Rockets, Motiejunas, a 7-0 center-forward, wanted to play somewhere and sought his second — unless it was his third — assignment to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

He has since returned to the Rockets, gone back to the Vipers and returned to the Rockets again, depending on how many round trips ago he sought D-League playing time.

"I asked to be sent," Motiejunas, 26, said. "In my station, I don't play a lot. I felt I lost completely the game, the feeling of the game and the rhythm of the game. It's tough to sit on the bench. For me, it's painful. But you have to go through this."

Motiejunas has been assigned to and recalled from the D-League three times since mid-November. Terrence Jones made the round trip four times — once in a span of 48 hours — before he went back again Friday in time to fly to Maine for a game Saturday.

Jones, a 6-9 forward, scored 27 points with seven rebounds in the Vipers' rout. With his most recent assignment, Jones is eligible for a spot on the D-League All-Star roster to be announced Monday.

"It's gone both ways, rushing back up and being here for a day and rushing back down," Jones, 21, said. "Whatever I can get better at is what I'll have to do."

The Rockets had planned to send their third rookie power forward, Royce White, 21, to the Development League twice, and he is scheduled to join the Vipers on Feb. 11 with games the following two days.

Chance to stay sharp

Jones (averaging 19.7 points and 9.6 rebounds) and Motiejunas (20.3 points and 9.7 rebounds) said they prefer playing in the D-League than watching in the NBA.

But the assignments are not about their enjoyment. For each, the D-League time offered a chance to stay sharp but also to improve in the areas that have contributed to their inability to crack the rotation.

"If you're not playing and there are no practices, there is a way to enhance that development," Rockets executive vice president Gersson Rosas said. "For us, the best place for that to happen is in the D-League in games.

"Right now, T. Jones has an opportunity to get five games in 10 days (beginning with Saturday's game). We have to take advantage of that. Over those 10 days, there's one or two practices here in Houston.

"For us, the best thing was to go down and work on things the coaches want them to work on here. For Terrence, it's consistency in terms of defensive coverages, pick-and-roll coverages, schemes, where to be at the right time. You can only do that in game situations.