The Rockets unceremoniously dumped Donatas Motiejunas on Thursday night, renouncing all rights to the 7-footer, making him an unrestricted free agent. Sounded like good news for the Nets who offered Motiejunas $37 million over four years last two weeks ago.
But no, things may have changed for the Rockets and Motiejunas but nothing changed for the Nets. Restricted free agent or unrestricted free agent, Motiejunas cannot be signed by —or traded to— Brooklyn for a year from last week, when Houston matched their offer.
Yes, it’s complicated, and isn’t exactly logical, but it’s done. Here’s a brief summary of how we got here.
Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, engineered a five-month holdout that ended when the Nets tendered their offer sheet on December 2. After Houston matched three days later, Motiejunas initially refused to report, even take his physical, until a dispute over $6 million in incentives written into the offer sheet was resolved. The Rockets and Motiejunas then threw out the Nets offer sheet as the basis for a new contract and renegotiated a new deal for $35 million.
Motiejunas finally took his physical on December 9, a week ago Friday, but when he tried to work out on Saturday, he was told to go home. The Rockets had questions about his physical and it looked like the deal was off again. A stalemate ensued. It was broken on Thursday night by the Rockets’ surprise announcement that they had renounced his rights.
Sounded like a great opportunity for the Nets to get back into it. After all, he was unrestricted, but no, the NBA ruled that once the Rockets matched, the prohibition against the Nets acquiring him for a year kicked in. Motiejunas is unrestricted to any team ... other than the Nets until December 5, 2017.
Please don’t ask us to explain the logic. There isn’t any. Ask Bobby Marks, the Nets former assistant GM and now a capologist with The Vertical...
I understand the intent of the rule re: Motiejunas but there is no reason why Brooklyn should not be allowed to sign him.— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) December 16, 2016
The irony is that if Motiejunas had reported for the initial physical and failed, he would have become a Net at that point. A lot of people think Armstrong didn’t play this as well as could have. It’s difficult to imagine him getting as much for his client as the Nets and Rockets offered.
The value of the 26-year-old to the Nets would have been twofold. First, he is a solid player, even with his back problems. The other is that Motiejunas was essentially a freebee. The Nets wouldn’t have had to give up anything or anyone for him. Moreover, the Nets are $9 million under the salary floor —what they would have paid Motiejunas—and if they don’t spend any money on players, they’ll have to give the money away to whoever’s on their roster at the end of the season. So that $9 million that was earmarked for Motiejunas is going to get spent anyway. Better to get some use out of it.
But it’s not to be, just as it wasn’t to be with Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe, RFA’s whose Net contract offers were matched in the summer. Tough break. Still console yourself with this thought: three good young players —Johnson, Crabbe and Motiejunas— all agreed to sign with the Nets.