1:39pm: According to Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com (via Twitter), the Rockets gave Motiejunas a November 22 deadline to sign their offer. When that date came and went without any action from Motiejunas, the club told him his value has further decreased.
1:21pm: The Rockets have pulled their most recent offer to Motiejunas off the table, league sources tell Stein (Twitter links). According to Stein, the team’s hopes of getting a deal done with the restricted free agent by the end of the day appear to be fading.
10:08am: Nearly a month into the NBA season, restricted free agent Donatas Motiejunas remains unsigned, but there’s a reason to believe progress could be made today. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein (via Twitter), the Rockets view Wednesday as an unofficial deadline for their negotiations with Motiejunas, since it’s the last day a player can sign a contract and still be trade-eligible later this season. Houston will try to get a deal done today with the free agent forward, says Stein.
NBA rules dictate that when a free agent signs a contract, he can’t be traded until December 15 or three months after the date of his signing, whichever comes later. So any player that signed a new contract after September 15 has a unique date when he becomes eligible to be dealt. Because there are exactly three months until this season’s February 23 trade deadline, any player who signs as a free agent after today can’t be traded until after the season.
The Rockets tendered Motiejunas a qualifying offer worth about $4.4MM back in June. However, the 26-year-old didn’t reach an agreement with Houston or sign an offer sheet with a rival suitor during the offseason, and that qualifying offer expired last month. Motiejunas can no longer sign his one-year QO, but remains a restricted free agent, meaning Houston still has the right of first refusal should he strike a deal with another team.
The most recent report on Motiejunas suggested the Rockets had put a multiyear offer on the table that featured about $7MM in guaranteed first-year salary. The proposal sounded similar to deals signed by RFAs like Tyler Zeller and Festus Ezeli earlier this year — two-year pacts in the $15MM range, with only the first year guaranteed.
Although Motiejunas struggled to stay healthy in 2015/16 and his production took a significant hit, he looked like a player on the rise in 2014/15, when he averaged 12.0 PPG and 5.9 RPG to go along with a .504 FG% and a .368 3PT%. He has been plagued by back troubles in recent years, creating some long-term uncertainty about his health and limiting his market.
If the Rockets and Motiejunas don’t reach an agreement today, the team could still sign him at any time, but there would be no clear timeline for a deal to get done.