Few NBA players experienced the sort of roller coaster ride that Donatas Motiejunas did in 2016. Coming off a promising 2014/15 season, the big man battled injuries in 2015/16, and was included in a deadline deal that would have sent him from the Rockets to the Pistons in February. However, that trade was vetoed due to health concerns about Motiejunas’ back.
Still a Rocket, Motiejunas finished out the season in Houston and became a restricted free agent in the summer. D-Mo subsequently spent more than five months on the free agent market, ultimately landing a four-year offer sheet with the Nets that was matched by the Rockets.
However, a dispute over the incentives included in the offer sheet prompted Motiejunas not to report to Houston, which resulted in the two sides redoing his deal, then scrapping it entirely. The 26-year-old became an unrestricted free agent, signing a one-year, minimum salary contract with the Pelicans, a far cry from the $37MM offer sheet he had received from Brooklyn.
In the wake of a tumultuous 2016, Motiejunas is ready to turn the page. Speaking to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders, the new Pelicans big man admitted that his NBA career has been a “big mess” so far, Still, Motiejunas remains confident in his ability to contribute on the court, and is optimistic about doing better on the free agent market next summer. Here are some more of the highlights of D-Mo’s conversation with Scotto:
On his restricted free agency with the Rockets:
“Honestly, you can say it was business stuff, but, from my side, I’m a basketball player, I just want to play. 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.”
On the resolution of his RFA saga:
“The team lost an asset. I lost $37-38MM, so both sides lost in this situation. No one won in this situation actually. … 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.
On how frustrating it was to be in free agent limbo:
“The hardest part, probably, was that unknown. Where am I going to go? Where am I going to be? What’s going to happen? I keep on talking with people. I was talking with the people in the [players’ union]. I was talking with people from the NBA. I was talking with people from the teams and they keep on telling me, ‘Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.’ At one point I was like, ‘Tomorrow has already been two weeks. I want to play. I’m hungry.’ I’m sitting, watching these games, and I’m like, ‘I can help each of these teams to be better.’ It was a really tough moment for me, probably all of 2016.”
On his fit with the Pelicans:
“My goal is to help Anthony Davis to be better, my goal is to help the other players play the right way, help them to find a role. I’m the player who’s going to, if you’re wide open on the floor, I’m going to pass you the ball. That’s who I am. I’m unselfish. … We have a lot of great shooters here who can take open shots. I think they were missing the person who could deliver the ball to them and who can space when Anthony Davis is playing in the post or on the elbow. That’s who I am. That’s who I’m going to try to be.”