Donatas Motiejunas’ career has endured more detours than Brooklyn’s Belt Parkway during construction. Similar to the Belt Parkway, Motiejunas’ physical condition has been questioned over the years. Motiejunas was a key member of the Houston Rockets team that finished with a 56-26 record to win the Southwest Division before ultimately losing in the Western Conference Finals to the Golden State Warriors during the 2014-15 season. He averaged career highs in points (12), rebounds (5.9) and minutes (28.7) per game, shot career highs from the field (.504) and beyond the arc (.368) and started 62 of the 71 games he played in. After that 71st game, he missed the rest of the season and all of the playoffs. Things began to unravel the following season. Motiejunas missed the first 20 games of the season, and 45 overall. He was nearly dealt to the Detroit Pistons during last season’s trade deadline until he failed a physical, which nullified the trade. He returned in late February and played every remaining regular season and playoff game, but struggled upon returning from the canceled trade in a reduced role. Motiejunas averaged 6.6 points and 3.4 rebounds in 15.6 minutes per game over the final 23 games of the regular season while shooting 41 percent from the field and 23 percent from beyond the arc. Motiejunas played better in the playoffs averaging 8.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in 19.7 minutes per game while shooting 43 percent from the field and 44 percent from beyond the arc. Motiejunas then entered restricted free agency where he remained in limbo for months. “Honestly, you can say it was business stuff, but, from my side, I’m a basketball player, I just want to play,” Motiejunas told Basketball Insiders. “Being involved in that business situation, it was one of the worst experiences of my life that I’ve had. I would say, from any basketball player, we work every day, we put our sweat, we put our tears, we put our blood on the floor, try to help and make teams better, so when someone acts with you like this, it’s just wrong.” As a restricted free agent, Motiejunas signed a four-year, $37 million offer sheet with the Brooklyn Nets. The Houston Rockets matched the offer sheet, contingent upon Motiejunas passing a physical. Motiejunas didn’t report for the physical, which gave Houston the option to withdraw its right of first refusal and scrap the deal. The Rockets and Motiejunas attempted to negotiate a new deal but failed to come to terms and the team decided to go in a different direction. The Rockets then renounced his rights, which made him an unrestricted free agent. By rule, however, Motiejunas couldn’t sign a new deal with Brooklyn for one year. After losing $37 million, what went through Motiejunas’ mind? “The team lost an asset,” Motiejunas told Basketball Insiders. “I lost $37, 38 million, so both sides lost in this situation. No one won in this situation actually. I know, as soon as I step on the floor, the people are going to see that I’m the same guy that I was last year when I was playing. For me, I’m not going to lose anything. After this year, someone else is going to pick me up. I’m not worried about that. I know how to play basketball. I know how to make every and each team better. I adjust to the situation depending on what coach asks me to do, so I’m not worried about that. It was just a ridiculous situation, the resolution was taking too long, and it was affecting me as a player, and it was affecting me personally. Instead of being a business decision it was like more of a personal decision.” Motiejunas’ market thinned with Houston out of the picture, and Brooklyn’s $37 million offer was no longer on the table, which forced him to sign a one-year deal with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Donatas Motiejunas on Comeback and Free Agency Nightmare
Basketball Insiders | Jan 12