Donatas Motiejunas could’ve signed a fully guaranteed one-year, $4,433,683 contract. Instead, he let his qualifying offer expire.
At another point in his free agency, he could’ve all but locked into a contract that guaranteed him $5 million, highly likely would’ve paid at least $17.5 million and could’ve been worth up to $37 million. Instead, he skipped his physical with the Rockets after they matched the Nets’ offer sheet.
In the end, Motiejunas signed a prorated minimum contract with the Pelicans for $576,724.
Motiejunas, via Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders:
“Honestly, you can say it was business stuff, but, from my side, I’m a basketball player, I just want to play,” Motiejunas told Basketball Insiders. “Being involved in that business situation, it was one of the worst experiences of my life that I’ve had. I would say, from any basketball player, we work every day, we put our sweat, we put our tears, we put our blood on the floor, try to help and make teams better, so when someone acts with you like this, it’s just wrong.”
“The team lost an asset,” Motiejunas told Basketball Insiders. “I lost $37, 38 million, so both sides lost in this situation. No one won in this situation actually. I know, as soon as I step on the floor, the people are going to see that I’m the same guy that I was last year when I was playing. For me, I’m not going to lose anything. After this year, someone else is going to pick me up. I’m not worried about that. I know how to play basketball. I know how to make every and each team better. I adjust to the situation depending on what coach asks me to do, so I’m not worried about that. It was just a ridiculous situation, the resolution was taking too long, and it was affecting me as a player, and it was affecting me personally. Instead of being a business decision it was like more of a personal decision.”
It sounds as if Motiejunas is upset about not playing, not just how his contract situation eventually played out – but that’s his fault. He should’ve accepted the qualifying offer in the first place, and he would’ve been on the court to begin the season and earning more money.
He’ll be a free agent against next summer, and he might be in for another rough time. In the last year, both the Pistons and Rockets failed him on physicals. The Rockets even let him hit unrestricted free agency when they could’ve made him a restricted free agent without an open qualifying offer. Essentially, Houston didn’t think he was worth the trouble at any price.
Motiejunas was stuck in restricted free agency last year until most teams had spent their cap space. Beginning the offseason unrestricted should help him this year, and he’ll have a chance to boost his stock in New Orleans.
But the underlying injury concerns aren’t disappearing, and those will keep limiting teams’ desire to sign him.