Rockets power forward Donatas Motiejunas will miss the rest of the season and the playoffs with an injured back, reports Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter link). Motiejunas has been out since March 25th. It’s disappointing news for a team with aspirations of a deep playoff run in spite of having lost Patrick Beverley to a season-ending injury of his own last month. The injury to Motiejunas simply hasn’t improved as the Rockets, who initially believed he’d be back before season’s end, had hoped, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com.
Houston, in spite of the losses of Motiejunas and Beverley, doesn’t have enough injuries to qualify for an extra roster spot via hardship, and with a full 15-man roster, there’s little the Rockets can do to offset their losses, at least from a player movement standpoint. The 7-footer was in the midst of his finest NBA season since he became the 20th overall pick in 2011, having started in 62 of his 71 appearances and averaged career highs of 12.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in 28.7 minutes per game. His absence will put more pressure on Terrence Jones, who’s been starting in his place, and midseason signee Josh Smith to perform.
The injury is also ill-timed for Motiejunas personally, since he’ll become eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer. Jones, too, will be eligible for a rookie scale extension, and Smith will be a free agent, so Houston has some key decisions to make at power forward.