Donatas Motiejunas

Spurs Sign Donatas Motiejunas

10:55am: The Spurs have officially signed Motiejunas, the team announced in a press release. The club now has a full 15-man roster.

10:02am: Nearly two weeks after reporting that big man Donatas Motiejunas and the Spurs were nearing a contract agreement, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski provides an update, tweeting that Motiejunas is expected to officially sign with San Antonio today. Motiejunas will meet the team on its current road trip, Woj adds.

Motiejunas, 28, has spent the last two seasons playing for the Shandong Golden Stars in the Chinese Basketball Association. In 37 games with the club this season, he averaged an impressive 27.3 PPG, 14.0 RPG, and 4.2 APG, per Asia-Basket.com.

The Lithuanian forward’s deal with the Spurs was reportedly postponed due to visa issues, but he’s set to join the team in advance of the postseason. He’ll be eligible to participate in the playoffs, since he hasn’t been released by an NBA team since March 1.

Before playing in China, Motiejunas spent five seasons playing in the NBA for the Rockets and Pelicans. In 248 total contests (18.4 MPG), he averaged 7.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, and 1.1 APG on .469/.300/.600 shooting.

The Spurs have had an open spot on their 15-man roster since buying out Pau Gasol last month, so no corresponding move will be necessary to make room for Motiejunas. Assuming it’s finalized today, his rest-of-season deal will have a very modest cap hit of $59,820.

Southwest Notes: Valanciunas, Spurs, Doncic, Miller

Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas is done for the season after suffering a grade II right ankle sprain during Sunday’s game against the Clippers, the team announced on Monday. While the veteran big man won’t suit up again, he made a strong first impression in Memphis after coming over in a February trade, averaging 19.9 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, and 1.6 BPG in his first 19 games (27.7 MPG) with the team.

Of course, as Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian notes, there’s no guarantee Valanciunas will be back with the Grizzlies next season. He has a player option for 2019/20, which means he could opt out and elect to sign elsewhere. Still, in an examination of the free agent market for centers, Herrington makes the case that that’s an unlikely scenario. A more probable outcome would involve Valanciunas opting into his $17.6MM salary for next season, or reaching a deal on a longer-term extension with Memphis.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • It has been a week and a half since the Spurs were said to be nearing a deal with Donatas Motiejunas, and Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas tweets that visa issues are holding up an agreement (hat tip to Sportando). The Spurs have gotten involved to try to push the process along, per Urbonas. That’s an indication that San Antonio still wants to get Motiejunas on its roster before the end of the regular season.
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and GM R.C. Buford are two of the longest-tenured high-level executives in the NBA, in part due to their strong relationship with team ownership. As Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News details, with a new generation of the Holt family set to succeed their parents Julianna Hawn Holt and Peter M. Holt on the Spurs’ board of managers, Popovich and Buford are expecting a smooth transition. “We have full confidence in them,” Popovich said of siblings Peter J. Holt and Corrina Holt Richter. “They’re really intelligent, hard-working people who understand the organization. They’ve grown up with it.”
  • Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic has missed the team’s last two games with a right leg injury, but head coach Rick Carlisle remains hopeful that Doncic will get back on the court before the end of the season, writes Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News.
  • Pelicans swingman Darius Miller is dealing with a grade 1 left adductor strain, and isn’t a lock to return to the court this season. The team announced last Friday that Miller will be sidelined for a week or two.

Spurs Nearing Deal With Donatas Motiejunas

The Spurs are nearing a deal with big man Donatas Motiejunas, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links). After spending five seasons in the NBA, Motiejunas has played in China for the last two years.

San Antonio has an open roster spot since the buyout of fellow European Pau Gasol, thus no additional move needs to be made to accommodate the addition of Motiejunas. 

Motiejunas, 28, signed a four-year deal with the Rockets in July 2012 and spent his first four NBA seasons in Houston. After being a reliable scoring option off the bench his first two seasons, Motiejunas broke out in 2014/15, averaging a career-high 12.0 PPG and 5.9 RPG in 71 games (62 starts).

The Lithuanian entered the 2016 offseason a restricted free agent and after a lengthy contractual dispute, the Rockets ultimately rescinded their offer sheet and made him a free agent. Following a 34-game stint with the Pelicans, Motiejunas signed with the Shandong Golden Stars of the Chinese Basketball Association.

In 37 games this season, Motiejunas averaged an impressive 27.3 PPG and 14.0 RPG with the Golden Stars. The signing of Motiejunas would mark the second noteworthy CBA transaction this week as Jimmer Fredette signed a two-year deal with the Suns.

JaKarr Sampson To Play In China

Veteran forward JaKarr Sampson has signed a contract with the Shandong Golden Stars of the Chinese Basketball Association, a source tells Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. According to Carchia, agent Boris Gorenc confirmed the news.

Sampson, 25, has spent parts of three seasons in the NBA, appearing in a total of 169 regular season games for the Sixers, Nuggets, and Kings and compiling career averages of 5.1 PPG and 2.6 RPG in 15.6 minutes per contest.

Last season, Sampson played on a two-way contract with Sacramento. The Kings initially made the former St. John’s standout a qualifying offer in June, but withdrew that QO early in the free agent period in July, making him an unrestricted free agent. While Sampson eventually joined the Bulls for training camp, he was cut by Chicago before the regular season got underway.

Shandong has now signed multiple NBA veterans within the last week, having also added Ty Lawson to replace injured guard Andrew Goudelock last week. Sampson will replace Donatas Motiejunas, who is expected to miss a month with an injury of his own, according to Carchia.

And-Ones: Brown, Motiejunas, Broekhoff, USA Basketball

Longtime NBA coach Larry Brown will sign his contract to become the head coach of the Euroleague’s Fiat Torino on Sunday, according to a Sportando report. Brown’s agent, Massimo Rizzo, said his client has already signed a letter of intent to coach the club but won’t ink the official contract until his press conference this weekend, the report adds. The 77-year-old will be taking his first head coaching position since resigning from Southern Methodist two years ago.

We have more international and domestic basketball news:

  • Forward Donatas Motiejunas will remain in China next season, Sportando relays. He re-signed with Shandong for approximately $3MM, the report adds. Motiejunas played 34 games with the Pelicans in 2016/17 after beginning his career with the Rockets, but long-terms concerns over the soundness of his back sidetracked his NBA career.
  • Australian swingman Ryan Broekhoff has visited several teams this week hoping to land an NBA contract, HoopsHype tweets. Broekhoff, who went undrafted out of Valparaiso in 2013, was scheduled to visit and work out for the Wizards, Timberwolves, Bucks and Nets, HoopsHype adds.
  • Reggie Hearn, Jonathan Holmes, Amile Jefferson, David Stockton and Xavier Munford are among the 14 players who will be on the training camp roster for the USA World Cup Qualifying Team, according a USA Basketball press release. Training camp begins on Wednesday and the final roster will be pared to 12 players.  In the FIBA World Cup Qualifying games, the U.S. will face Mexico on June 28th in Mexico City and Cuba on July 1st in Havana.
  • The Hornets and Raptors are interested in adding Sergio Scariolo, who is currently the head coach of the Spanish national team, to their staffs, according to another Sportando post.

Ty Lawson, Donatas Motiejunas To Play In China

AUGUST 9: Shandong’s deals with Lawson and Motiejunas are now official, according to Pick (Twitter link), who adds that Motiejunas’ pact has a base value of $2.2MM.

AUGUST 8: NBA free agents Ty Lawson and Donatas Motiejunas appear poised to become teammates in China, according to international basketball reporter David Pick, who tweets that both players will head overseas to join the Shandong Golden Stars.

According to Pick (Twitter link), Lawson reached an agreement with Shandong prior to today, striking a deal that will pay him $2.4MM, with bonuses that could push the total value to $3MM. Previously rumored to be joining another CBA team, Lawson is coming off a modest bounce-back season with the Kings, in which he averaged 9.9 PPG and 4.8 APG in 69 contests, making 45.4% of his field goal attempts.

As for Motiejunas, his agreement with Shandong was initially reported by international outlet 15min.lt, as detailed by Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. His deal is believed to be in the $3MM range as well.

Motiejunas had a bizarre year in 2016, having been involved in a February trade that was scuttled due to health concerns, then going through a prolonged restricted free agency that involved another deal falling through. At various times in ’16, it seemed as if Motiejunas would be traded to the Pistons, signed by the Nets, or retained by the Rockets, but he ultimately landed with the Pelicans in January, averaging 4.4 PPG and 3.0 RPG in 34 games for New Orleans.

According to Pick (Twitter link), Shandong offered more than $3MM to Michael Beasley in the hopes of bringing him back, but the former Golden Star is opting to join the Knicks instead.

Free Agency Notes: Novak, Motiejunas, Vesely

Veteran sharpshooter Steve Novak, who has spent the last two years with the Thunder and Bucks, has only played 66 total minutes since the start of the 2015/16 season, but he’s not ready to call it a career quite yet. Agent Mark Bartelstein tells Gery Woelfel of The Racine Journal Times that Novak wants to play another season. Bartelstein added that he’s spoken to multiple teams about Novak, but he didn’t get any more specific than that.

Here are a few more notes related to NBA free agents and free agency:

  • A year after his restricted free agency became one of the NBA’s most bizarre offseason storylines, Donatas Motiejunas may be on the verge of heading overseas to continue his career. Stavros Barbarousis of Eurohoops suggests that China appears to be the most likely landing spot for Motiejunas, though the big man has received interest from European clubs, including Zalgiris Kaunas in his home country of Lithuania.
  • Former sixth overall pick Jan Vesely reportedly drew some NBA interest this offseason, and his contract gave him the opportunity to explore NBA opportunities. However, Vesely – who has played internationally since 2014 – won’t be returning stateside. His agent has confirmed that Vesely will remain in Turkey, having opted into his deal with Fenerbahce (Twitter link).
  • Jeremias Engelmann of ESPN.com (Insider link) makes his picks for the six best free agent deals of the summer, identifying multiple Warriors (Zaza Pachulia, David West) and Rockets (Nene, Luc Mbah a Moute) as some of the most team-friendly signings of the offseason.

And-Ones: Motiejunas, Blatt, Lakers, Free Agency

Heat president Pat Riley and Lakers president Magic Johnson participated in a panel discussion earlier this week, with Riley joking about how expects to land “a treasure of players” from Johnson in trades. As Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel outlines, Riley also talked about Johnson’s transition to the front office, and the challenges the former Lakers star will face as he adjusts to a role that doesn’t involve much interaction with his players.

“When I went from coaching to the front office, my first three months I was actually in fits, because I had lost control. You lose control of the team and the game, because you’re just selecting players,” Riley said. “And one thing you don’t want to do as president is second-guess your coach too much, go down to the locker room, don’t hang around too much. … [Magic] will sit up there in that box of his, and when things aren’t going good the first, he’s going to want to go down there and be Lonzo Ball‘s mentor.”

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Donatas Motiejunas has new representation, according to international basketball reporter David Pick, who tweets that the free-agent-to-be has signed with Octagon Sports. Motiejunas was previously repped by Wasserman, but left the agency in the wake of his tumultuous restricted free agency last season.
  • Former Cavaliers head coach David Blatt, who coached Turkey’s Darussafaka Dogus in 2016/17, may return to Israel for the coming season. David Pick reports (via Twitter) that Maccabi Tel Aviv executives appear ready to offer Blatt a long-term deal in the $3-4MM range. Blatt coached the Israeli club from 2010 to 2014 before he headed to Cleveland.
  • Ex-Lakers guard Darius Morris tells Rod Beard of The Detroit News (Twitter link) that he has worked out for the Lakers, Grizzlies, and Pistons, and has a session lined up with the Jazz as well.
  • In a feature for Bleacher Report, Howard Beck examines how free agency decisions by LeBron James and Kevin Durant may have changed the landscape for star players, inspiring more of them to change teams in the future.

Southwest Notes: Leonard, Pelicans, Parsons, Nowitzki

Kawhi Leonard‘s MRI revealed no structural damage, Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com tweets. Leonard injured his left ankle twice in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday, including a controversial play in which Warriors center Zaza Pachulia moved into his landing space after Leonard released a jump shot. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich ripped Pachulia on Monday for what Popovich felt was a reckless closeout. Leonard is expected to miss Game 2.

In other news around the Southwest Division

  • Donatas Motiejunas is unlikely to re-sign with the Pelicans because of their frontcourt logjam, Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas tweets. Motiejunas told Urbonas, ‘They don’t need me with already 4-5 big (men) on the roster for the next season.’ The 7-foot forward, who is an unrestricted free agent this summer, averaged 4.4 PPG and 3.0 RPG in 14.1 MPG over 34 games with the Pelicans.
  • Chandler Parsons future with the Grizzlies could be as a stretch four rather than playing his natural small forward spot, according to Michael Wallace of the team’s website. That could be a sensitive subject this offseason with veteran power forward Zach Randolph becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer and fellow big man JaMychal Green entering restricted free agency. Knee injuries limited Parsons to 34 games in the first year of his four-year, $94MM contract with Memphis.
  • Dirk Nowitzki is willing to assist the front office as the Mavericks prepare for the draft, according to team website reporter Earl K. Sneed. The club holds the No. 9 overall pick, pending the results of Tuesday’s lottery. “Maybe I’ll be in the draft room this year, if that’s what it takes,” Nowitzki told Sneed. “I think we’ve got plenty of time over the next few weeks to set a plan, execute the plan on draft day hopefully and maybe in free agency, and we’ll go from there.”
  • Improving 3-point shooting is paramount for the Pelicans to make the playoffs next year, coach Alvin Gentry said on The Vertical podcast. Gentry’s comments were relayed in a story by Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Advocate. The Twin Tower duo of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins won’t work unless the club acquires better perimeter shooters, according to Gentry. “We are going to have to upgrade there and the players that we have are going to have to show vast improvement over the summer,” Gentry said on the podcast. “If you’re going to play the two big guys that we have, obviously, there are going to be a lot of double-teaming. … in order to make that work, we’re going to have to be able to knock down perimeter shots.”

Motiejunas Takes Legal Action Against Rockets, League

MAY 13, 8:20am: Following Deveney’s report, Motiejunas took to social media to refute the story, claiming that he and the Rockets resolved their issues a month ago (via Twitter).

“A month ago we with the NBPA and the Houston Rockets found an agreement and solved everything. There are no court proceedings between us. The information which was published on the media is false.

However, Deveney claims that the National Basketball Players Association explained the matter between Motiejunas and the Rockets differently, indicating that both sides are still engaged in legal proceedings. Motiejunas and the Rockets were seeking an agreement to resolve this matter, but it’s not clear whether they’ve resolved it already or if a settlement is still being finalized.

MAY 12, 3:50pm: After a tumultuous season in which he bounced around three franchises, Donatas Motiejunas is in the midst of legal action against the Rockets and the NBA, Sean Deveney of the Sporting News reports. Sources tell Deveney that the parties could reach a settlement, possibly within the next week.

Motiejunas, who had played for the Rockets since 2012/13, hit restricted free agency last summer but was unable to come to terms on a contract with them or any other suitors. At the time, Motiejunas refused to sign a qualifying offer and that eventually expired.

The Rockets ultimately presented and then pulled an offer they extended at the beginning of the 2016/17 campaign when a deadline they established came and passed in late November with no commitment from Motiejunas’ camp.

Eventually, the big man signed an offer sheet with the Nets in early December worth $35MM over four years, which the Rockets agreed to match. Houston, however, stripped out some of the incentive bonuses that had been included in the Brooklyn offer, a difference of as much as $2MM says Deveney.

When the Rockets and Motiejunas then agreed upon a reworked deal, the center underwent a physical, the results of which prompted Houston to renounce their rights to him, officially making him an unrestricted free agent.

Despite the unrestricted free agency, Motiejunas was unable to procure another offer from the Nets.

In January, as the smoke cleared, Motiejunas signed a deal with the Pelicans where he averaged 3.4 points per game in 34 contests.

This offseason he’ll be a free agent once more and though he has terminated his relationship with his former agent at the Wasserman Group, he could re-sign with them prior to hitting the market.