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The Bizarre Saga of Donatas Motiejunas

December 7th, 2016 No comments
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Update (12/15/16):

The Houston Rockets apparently never actually signed Donatas Motiejunas. But whether they did or did not  sign him is irrelevant. In both cases, the Rockets could have conditioned the contract (in a case where they didn’t sign him, as a condition to offering the contract; and in a case where they did sign him, as a condition to the validity of the contract in accordance with Exhibit 6) on him passing a physical exam. The Rockets did so condition it, and Motiejunas failed. Which returned him to restricted free agency once again. 

After consultation with the league office to find an amicable solution to a contentious situation, the Rockets have renounced their rights to Motiejunas, making him an unrestricted free agent. He is now free to sign with an team except the Brooklyn Nets, who are prohibited from signing or acquiring him until December 9, 2017. 

Update (12/9/16):

The Houston Rockets and Donatas Motiejunas have agreed to a new contract. The Rockets’ first refusal exercise notice to match the offer sheet Motiejunas signed with the Brooklyn Nets has been withdrawn, and the new deal will presumably be signed shortly.

The new deal will contain the same basic structure as the offer sheet (as detailed herein), including $31 million in base salary, $4 million in likely bonuses and $2 million in unlikely bonuses. It will have a salary cap hit for this season of $9.3 million (equal to his $8.3 million base salary, plus $1 million in likely bonuses).

The primary differences between the new deal and the offer sheet will be that: (i) the guarantee on Motiejunas’ second year salary will get pushed back to July vs. March 1, and (ii) the Rockets will be able to trade Motiejunas without restrictions after the end of the season (i.e., the end of the regular season or, if he’s on the playoff roster, after the Rockets either win the title or are eliminated) vs. being restricted from trading him without his consent for one year.

The lengthy saga, however, is not quite over just yet.

The Rockets could have conditioned the new contract on Motiejunas passing a physical examination (Exhibit 6 to the Uniform Player Contract). The determination would be made in the sole discretion of a physician designated by the Rockets. The exam would need to be completed within three business days of executing the contract (which, if it were executed today, would be by next Wednesday) and the results would need to be reported to Motiejunas within six business days of executing the contract (which, if it were executed today, would be by the following Monday).  If the physician appointed by the Rockets determines that Motiejunas has failed his physical, he would be returned to restricted free agency. 

Whatever happens, the Nets are now officially prohibited from signing or acquiring Motiejunas for one year from the date the first refusal exercise notice was withdrawn (i.e. until December 9, 2017 or thereafter). 

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Donatas Motiejunas is having a tough time navigating the difficult world of restricted free agency.

There are two types of free agency in the NBA: unrestricted and restricted. Both types of free agents are free to re-sign with their prior teams. An unrestricted free agent is free to sign with any other team as well, and there’s nothing his prior team can do to stop it. A restricted free agent can also sign with any other team, but his prior team can retain him by matching the terms of that offer. This is called the “right of first refusal.”

Restricted free agency is allowed only in limited circumstances: For first-round draft picks who complete all four years of their rookie-scale contracts, and for players who have been in the league for three or fewer seasons. Only these players qualify for restricted free agency, and only if their prior teams first submit to them a “qualifying offer” at some point between the day following the completion of the NBA Finals and the subsequent June 30. A qualifying offer is a standing offer of a one-year guaranteed contract, which the player can accept at any time while it remains outstanding.

Motiejunas was the twentieth pick in the first-round of the 2011 NBA draft. After having completed the fourth and final year of his rookie-scale contract in 2015-16, the Houston Rockets tendered a $4.4 million qualifying offer on June 30, 2016. Motiejunas therefore became a restricted free agent this summer.  Read more…