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Donatas Motiejunas Not Reporting to Rockets Because of $6 Million Difference in Contract

The weird Donatas Motiejunas-Houston Rockets saga continues.

by Sean Newell
Dec 7 2016, 10:50pm

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, Donatas Motiejunas signed a four-year offer sheet with the Brooklyn Nets worth $37 million, $6 million of which was incentive-based. On Monday, the Rockets matched that offer, but under the terms of the CBA, "match" does not really mean "match." Houston only had to offer $31 million, the actual portion of the contract, not the incentives. So, Motiejunas and his agent, former Chicago Bull B.J. Armstrong, have told Houston to kick rocks. Motiejunas had two days to report for a physical and Armstrong told the Rockets that wasn't happening.

Motiejunas, a restricted free agent, has had a strange year with the Rockets. He was nearly dealt to the Detriot Pistons last February, but Detroit voided the deal after he failed a physical. The Lithuanian big man has had a history of back issues, most recently undergoing surgery in April 2015, which has been part of the reason the Rockets have been hesitant to sign him to a long term deal. After the Pistons deal fell through, he returned to Houston and played out the rest of the season. Houston had hoped to sign him to a new deal before November 23, since he would still be eligible to be traded by the February 23, 2017 deadline, but their last offer sat on the table for months, and they finally pulled it last Tuesday, one day before the Nets offer sheet signing.

So now the Rockets have a decision to make: they can either pull their offer tomorrow, making Motiejunas a restricted free agent again, or keep it open and it would automatically expire on March 1, 2017. They're not opposed to working out a new deal with him, and Armstrong has said he's willing to listen, but he's also willing to hear from other teams as well.

It's an odd situation all around, especially since Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni seems to really value what Motiejunas brings to the table:

"He's skilled, 7 feet, knows how to really play basketball, a hard worker," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said Monday night. "Above all, just his basketball intelligence will be great for any team; it will be great for us. We just got to fit him in and work it out and get him into shape. It's going to take a little bit, but there's time."

Motiejunas told ESPN that he passed a series of tests, specifically on his back, before signing with the Nets last week, so he's got that going for him. The Rockets, however, have played to a 14-7 record without him and are currently fourth in the Western Conference. This could take a while.