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In Houston, Morey and D’Antoni wait on terms, hope for the best

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Houston Rockets Introduce Jeremy Lin Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

As they waited to see what the Nets would offer Donatas Montiejunas —as early as Friday— both Rockets GM Daryl Morey and head coach Mike D’Antoni are hopeful that they can retain the 7-footer, but would make no commitments.

In interviews with Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, both professed a desire to have Montiejunas return to Houston. Morey, known as a crafty executive with steel nerves, said he expected the offer sheet soon.

"We're big fans of Donatas," Morey said. "We hope to have him at some point this year.

"It's our understanding he will probably sign something in the next day. We won't know until it's official. We don't know how much it will be."

Meanwhile, D’Antoni would like to see the Lithuanian big play in his wide open offense, but said it’s not up to him.

"I think we all hope it will work out," D'Antoni said. "We still like him as a player and a person. Now, we just have to see the terms. Those are Daryl's decisions, what's best for the organization. They'll do what's best for the organization. From a personal standpoint, yeah it would be great."

The Nets do have an insight into the Rockets thinking. Gianluca Pascucci, Houston's former vice president of player personnel and a Morey confidant, was dismissed by ownership over the summer ... and signed almost immediately as the Nets director of global scouting. But more than one league source has suggested Pascucci’s role with Brooklyn is broader than that.

It’s hard to imagine Sean Marks and the Nets ownership, in town this week, would make such a move without consulting Pascucci.

Rockets ownership of course will make the final decision. The Rockets payroll is at $94.8 million, about $700,00 over the salary cap. Matching any realistic Nets offer to Motiejunas would still put them under the luxury tax threshold.

So far, the Rockets have low-balled Motiejunas, most recently offering him a two-year deal starting at $7 million a year, with the second year not fully guaranteed. Their concern, of course, is Motiejunas back, the subject of two surgeries in recent years. Last week, they pulled even that offer. And of course, they tried to trade him in February, a deal that the Pistons voided because of concerns over his back, concerns the Nets apparently don’t have.

By waiting until after November 23, the Nets put the Rockets into a bit of a box. If the Rockets match a Nets offer sheet on Motiejunas, the Rockets could not make any deal involving him this season, could not trade him to any team without his consent for a year after he signs and cannot trade him to the Nets at all for one year.

The first limitation —no deal this season— relates to the timing of the offer sheet. The trade deadline is February 23. Players cannot be traded for 90 days after they’ve been signed. November 23 —last Wednesday— was 90 days before the deadline. It’s also when the Rockets pulled their latest offer.

A crucial consideration for Morey and ownership is whether the Rockets can succeed —and contend— without Motiejunas. So far, the players who D’Antoni has used to fill in, Montrezl Harrell and Sam Dekker, have played well. As Kevin Pelton tweeted after Harrell’s 13-point, 10-rebound game vs. the Warriors Thursday night...

Of course, considerations like that don’t take into account the dollars Houston will need to keep Motiejunas. That will become apparent later today, it would seem.