The writing was on the wall, and confirmation of a failed physical is sure to disappoint the Rockets and 76ers.
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:
The effects of negating this trade are wide-reaching.
With Motiejunas and Thornton returning to Houston, the Rockets are back above the luxury-tax line. They’re now projected to pay $4,841,505 in taxes – and no longer receive the share of taxes typically distributed to non-taxpaying teams.
The 76ers, who lost JaKarr Sampson to the Nuggets after waiving him to create a roster spot for Anthony, fall $2,630,651 below the salary floor. Watch for them to claim a waived player who makes about that amount, count his full-season salary toward the floor and pay only the prorated portion of the remaining salary (about 30%). Teams with a superfluous player making that amount could even waive him knowing Philadelphia might take that guaranteed salary off their hands. A candidate: Joel Anthony, who’s now back with Detroit (though the Pistons, as non-taxpayers, have less of a need to shed salary).
The Rockets would surely love to trim that amount, but they have no contracts so easily expendable that the 76ers would claim. The biggest incentive for Houston to make this trade was the first-round pick the Pistons were sending. The Rockets didn’t want just to dump Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton. Houston now has both players to help with a playoff push, but that doesn’t mean so much to the Rockets.
Ethically, this decision should focus only on player heath – and it might have. Motiejunas’ bad back is scary, and it was somewhat surprising the Pistons surrendered such a valuable pick for the pending free agent in the first place. But it’s worth wondering whether Detroit, 0-2 since the trade deadline and facing increased playoff competition with the Wizards (Markieff Morris) and Hornets (Courtney Lee) upgrading before the deadline, made this decision with ulterior motives.
The Pistons also traded for Tobias Harris, and they might have determined they’d face more difficulty than expected integrating its newcomers. That could lead to the top-eight-protected pick they dealt Houston more likely landing in the lottery. At that point, they could’ve re-thought the deal designed to acquire two players more helpful this season than Joel Anthony. Now, Detroit can keep its first-round pick and still pursue Motiejunas as a restricted free agent.
Other teams might hesitate to deal with the Pistons after this, so the onus is on Stan Van Gundy to defend his reputation. I think he’ll do that, but the questions must be asked first. At minimum, the Pistons avoid what all along appeared to be too risky of a trade. Detroit still has plenty of flexibility to build from here – again, including the possibility of trying to sign Motiejunas this summer.
With the trade deadline past, Houston and Philadelphia are much more stuck.