The team that made the most serious effort to sign Donatas Motiejunas this offseason is now the one team that can’t sign him in unrestricted free agency. According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today (via Twitter), the Nets still won’t be permitted to sign Motiejunas, whose rights were renounced on Thursday by the Rockets, making him an unrestricted free agent.
The NBA’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits a team that signs a restricted free agent to an offer sheet from acquiring that player for one year if the player’s original team matches the offer sheet. The Rockets initially matched the Nets’ four-year offer sheet for Motiejunas, at which point the 26-year-old failed to report to Houston within the required two-day window.
Eventually, the Rockets withdrew their first refusal notice and worked out a new arrangement with Motiejunas, but that deal was scuttled as well, following a discussion involving the team, Motiejunas’ camp, and the NBA. On Thursday, Houston renounced its free agent rights to the big man, making him an unrestricted free agent — able to sign with any team except for the Nets, who can’t acquire him until next December, per league rules. Zillgitt initially reported on Thursday that the situation could change as the NBA reviews the situation, but it sounds like the league will stick to the rule as written in the CBA.
It’s an unfortunate outcome for the Nets, the one team this year that seemed genuinely interested in adding Motiejunas. The Pistons voided a trade for D-Mo back in February after getting a closer look at the medicals on his back, and the Rockets were unable to agree to terms with the former first-rounder for months due to concerns about his long-term health. At this point, there should be no reason for the NBA or the Rockets to mind if Motiejunas lands on the Nets’ roster, but based on Zillgitt’s latest report, it sounds like the league won’t make an exception.
With the Nets apparently out of the mix, that leaves 29 other teams that could sign Motiejunas. However, most of those teams are over the cap, and the power forward had been seeking a multiyear deal worth at least $7-8MM annually, which will limit his opportunities. Still, now that he’s no longer restricted, he’ll have a few more options. For instance, if he’s unable to find a suitable NBA offer, Motiejunas could decide to play overseas for the rest of the 2016/17 season before returning to the NBA’s free agent market in 2017.
Although it doesn’t look like the CBA rules will be tweaked at all in this case to give the Nets another shot at Motiejunas, it will be interesting to see whether the new agreement between the NBA and NBPA – which is expected to be officially ratified soon – will change this aspect of the CBA at all.