The Rockets and restricted free agent Donatas Motiejunas have previously exchanged contract proposals, but the two sides remain far apart and are not close to reaching an accord, Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com reports. The forward is seeker a larger payout than Houston is offering and Motiejunas and the team haven’t engaged in serious discussions in over a month, league sources inform Watkins. This info jibes with what Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported on Friday.
Motiejunas has until midnight on Sunday to accept the team’s qualifying offer worth $4,433,683. By submitting a qualifying offer, Houston has the right of first refusal on any offer sheet Motiejunas were to ink, which prevents him from signing outright with another club. The Lithuanian big man, who turned 26 in September, could sign that one-year qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent next summer, but he obviously prefers longer-term security and a bigger payday. It could also lead to a tense situation between himself and the front office if he were to have to accept the QO against his wishes, which isn’t an ideal situation for either party heading into the new season.
The forward’s agent, B.J. Armstrong, told Watkins that he gave the Rockets a deadline of today to work out a deal for his client. If no deal is agreed upon prior to the deadline and Motiejunas chooses not to sign the qualifying offer, or if he allows it to expire, he can eventually sign a one-year deal with the Rockets that could end up being for less money. If that is the route the forward takes, the Rockets would not be able to trade him unless he grants them permission. For what it’s worth, the Rockets have kept an open roster spot for Motiejunas, with the team currently having 19 players under contract, which is one under the preseason limit.
Motiejunas could also seek to sign a contract with another team, but there are only three franchises — the Sixers, Nuggets and Nets — who have the cap space needed to sign him, according to Watkins. If no NBA opportunity presented itself, Motiejunas could seek a deal overseas or choose to sit out the 2016/17 season. Neither of which is as palatable as remaining in the league and earning an NBA paycheck. It is doubtful that Motiejunas could snag a one-year deal overseas that would exceed the amount of his qualifying offer in Houston.