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Pincus: Nets offer to Motiejunas “puzzling”

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Brooklyn Nets v Houston Rockets Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

UPDATE: The Rockets and Donatas Motiejunas reached an agreement on a four year deal Friday morning with similar terms as the Nets original offer sheet to the Houston big man.

In a column Friday, Basketball Insiders’ cap guru Eric Pincus delves into the agreement between the Nets and Donatas Motiejunas, which the Rockets matched, and finds it “puzzling.”

At the core of his analysis, helped by conversations with NBA GM’s, is this question: “Why did he sign such a Houston-friendly offer sheet with the Brooklyn Nets? What is he trying to achieve by refusing to report for a physical?”

Pincus describes the Nets offer —$37 million over four years— as not as “ugly” as those tendered this summer to Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson.

Bottom line for Pincus is this...

Normally when a team is attempting to pry away a restricted free agent from another team, it makes the contract as ugly as possible to discourage a matched offer sheet. Instead, the Brooklyn deal with Motiejunas looks like the Nets were doing a favor for B.J. Armstrong, Motiejunas’ agent with Wasserman Media Group, to help his client get suited up in Rockets’ red.

Clearly, that’s not the case as Motiejunas has still not made an appearance in Houston even though he is now under contract with the franchise.

At the core of the dispute between Houston and their seven-footer are bonus incentives. B.J. Armstrong thought he was signing on to a deal where the incentives would carry over in the match, but under the CBA, they do not. And the incentives in the Nets deal were essentially $6 million in easy money.

Motiejunas had a body-fat/weigh-in bonus of $1 million, along with two separate unlikely bonuses of $250,000 for the 2016-17 season, based on playing 70 percent of the team’s regular-season games along with a performance goal of 6.5 defensive rebounds per 36 minutes and a 37 percent three-point percentage (on at least two attempts per game).

For each of the last three seasons of his original deal, he had a $750,000 body-fat/weight bonus, a $250,000 bonus for participating in an off-season skill and conditioning program, along with the same pair of $250,000 unlikely performance incentives.

Instead of making $37 million with Brooklyn, he’ll make $31 million with Houston, if he, Armstrong and Rockets GM Daryl Morey ever work something out.

Whose mistake? Pincus —and a league source NetsDaily has spoke with— suggest it has to be Armstrong’s. He should have known.

Pincus writes the puzzlement also extends to why the Nets didn’t load up Motiejunas contract with trade bonuses, as they did with Johnson and Crabbe, both of who have 15 percent bonuses. It could relate to all the options in the Motiejunas deal, themselves included to protect Brooklyn and Houston from a recurrence of his back injuries.

But the bottom line is that Motiejunas is not reporting for his physical and a five month standoff continues. The physical is a requirement he has meet and pass before he signs... and receives a $5 million upfront payment on this year’s deal. According to Dan Feldman at NBC Sports, there’s another issue. Who’s cap takes the hit on Motiejunas salary until things are resolved.

In the meantime, Motiejunas will continue to count toward the Nets’ team salary while the offer sheet is open, which is a nuisance but not hugely disruptive. They have plenty of cap space anyway, and the odds of adding significant salary in a trade are low.

At the latest, that means March 2, a week after the trade deadline. We would expect a resolution before then, but again...