Did not see this coming.
After a summer of back-and-forth that intensified in the past few weeks after he signed an offer sheet with Brooklyn that the Rockets matched, Houston will outright released Donatas Motiejunas, the team announced Thursday. From the team press release:
Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey announced today that after extensive discussions with Donatas Motiejunas, his representatives, and the NBA league office, the Rockets will renounce Motiejunas and he will become an unrestricted free agent.
“Donatas was a true professional throughout his four seasons with the Rockets,” said Morey. “We wish Donatas the best moving forward and want to thank him for his contributions both on the court and in the community.”
This is a sign that whatever the Rockets found in their latest physical with him, it hit them hard. They could have simply failed him at the physical, and he would have been a restricted free agent again, giving Houston some leverage. Instead, they let him go.
He can now sign with any team except Brooklyn (he cannot sign with them for one year after signing the offer sheet with them before).
The Rockets will sign Bobby Brown to fill that roster space.
Motiejunas has battled back problems, which is why there was not much interest in him as a restricted free agent last summer. He didn’t sign the qualifying offer from the Rockets, and essentially held out from Houston at the start of camp. Houston shrugged, knowing they could match any offer. Brooklyn eventually made a four-year, $37 million offer, but the Rockets matched the $31 million of it they were required to (no incentives). Motiejunas didn’t like that and refused to sign. The Rockets and Motiejunas agreed to a four-year, $35 million deal (which gave the Rockets a later opt-out date for next season’s contract, mid-July). Motiejunas came in for his physical, and something was amiss. The Rockets, Motiejunas’ agent, and the NBA league office all talked, and this is where things landed.
He’s going to get offers, but not for the kind of money he was hoping for.