No progress on the Donatas Motiejunas front

I wrote two weeks ago on the Donatas Motiejunas contract negotiations, a process that has been and will be in limbo until October 1, the date when, unless its extended, the Rockets’ qualifying offer to Motiejunas expires.

Finally, last night, it seems there was some news on that front, but unfortunately for Motiejunas, rather than actual interest from another team, the soundwaves were nothing but frustration expressed by his agent:

“He wants me to make an offer and I’m not negotiating against myself,” Armstrong said. “Daryl (Morey, the Rockets general manager) and I are talking, but at this point there’s nothing to discuss. You know the value of a player. You know the value of a starting center in the NBA. There is no back-and-forth because of the rules. They’re using the rules to their advantage.”

Of course, as I explained in that September 1st piece, there’s no reason for Morey to negotiate against himself either.  If that October 1 deadline passes and Motiejunas still hasn’t accepted the qualifying offer, he remains a restricted free agent.  And to our knowledge, with no outside interest to date from other teams, he and his agent appear to have little to no leverage.  As I delineated in my earlier post, if Motiejunas has soured on the Rockets or wants to bet on himself, he can take the qualifying offer, and test the waters again next summer, but as an unrestricted free agent.  More from Armstrong:

“The Rockets are using the rules of restricted free agency to their advantage instead of focusing on what I would hope is the only thing that I would think is important to everybody, which is winning games,” Armstrong said. “I hope with coach (Mike) D’Antoni and the staff that they want to put the best team on the court to help the organization win games. If that’s the case, let’s get past the restricted free agency and the rules and put the best players on the floor to help him win basketball games.

I get the intent here, but for a professional with a fiduciary responsibility over another individual’s financial interests, Armstrong just sounds incredibly unsophisticated in the highlighted quote.  To be clear, there are instances when playing the press game can be beneficial.  He could’ve claimed the Rockets weren’t dealing in good faith had they spread details of Motiejunas’ medical records, as Carl Landry’s agent alleged some years ago.  Or he could have made the oft-repeated charge that Morey viewed his players as assets, something that actually did take legs, and for which the Rockets did take a public relations hit.  But here, Armstrong just comes off as if he doesn’t understand the basics of the collective bargaining agreement.  “Winning” and financial responsibility aren’t exactly mutually exclusive ends.

It’s unfortunate.  I like D-Mo a lot and hope he’s back, but this will end about as bad for him as it can for someone who will still probably rake in at least $8 million a year, I predict.  Hopefully the two sides can have a meeting of the minds on a figure that’s in line with what they each think he’s worth.  Because the market has spoken and the only noise is deafening silence: there most likely isn’t going to be a price to match.  Armstrong should work on fixing that instead of embarrassing himself further with quotes like the above.

in musings

On Yao Ming

With Yao’s induction into the Hall of Fame this past weekend, I looked back on a piece I wrote back in 2010 regarding the Houston big man.  The Mandarin scattered throughout appears because, in an experiment which failed miserably for reasons beyond my control, I had arranged to have the piece translated for wider accessibility.

I touched very briefly on Yao in Episode 104 of the Red94 Podcast, but realized after re-reading the 2010 piece that I had forgotten many interesting details involving his Rockets career.  Most notable among these was his utter dominance of former Rocket Dwight Howard in head to head match-ups.

In nine games against Howard, Yao averaged 23.6 points and 10.4 rebounds on 56% shooting, with 2.1 blocks, going 7-2.  Howard averaged 12.2 points and 9.8 rebounds on 45% shooting, with 1.7 blocks.

The significance wasn’t just that Howard was thought of at the time as the game’s premiere big man, but that, as I explained in the piece, the statistics dispelled the most common misconception regarding Yao.  Yao was derided by his critics as soft and incapable of withstanding physical play.  In actuality, anyone who actually followed him closely knew that he always played his best against the biggest players – it was the small ball lineups that gave him trouble.

in musings

Donatas Motiejunas’ rookie debut

I wrote last week on the Rockets’ waiting game regarding Donatas Motiejunas, explaining that they seemed to have all of the leverage in the current situation.  While in hindsight, successfully trading Motiejunas to Detroit would have been the more advantageous move, readers will remember that I was extremely upset following initial word of the transaction.

While doing some housekeeping in preparation for the new season, I’ve been digging through the archives from the past few seasons, and have stumbled across some gems.  I found a February 28, 2013 piece which was apparently written the night of Thomas Robinson and Motiejunas’ respective debuts.

[read more…]

in musings

Forecasting the Houston defense

I’ve mused since the signings that I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the team repeating its success from 2015.  Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon represent the first pure shooters James Harden has played with in Houston, making an already potent offense even more dangerous.  But I’ve also said the team is nearly as likely to be a complete disaster.  As Ian Levy of Nylon Calculus noted recently, in a piece titled ‘Are the Houston Rockets headed for a terrible defensive season?‘, in adding Anderson and Gordon, the 21st ranked defense in the league is adding two players who, by box plus-minus, were estimated to be among the 40-worst defenders in the league.

[read more…]

in musings

Placing K.J. McDaniels

In a piece titled ‘Finding the Next Kent Bazemore’, The Ringer recently zeroed in on Houston Rockets forward K.J. McDaniels, highlighting him as one of three hidden gems currently wasting away on an NBA bench:

The Rockets’ depth might force McDaniels to play the majority of another season in the D-League, but he needs the opportunity to work through mistakes and focus on his development. Wallace spent three seasons stashed on the Kings’ bench before the expansion Charlotte Bobcats let him find his footing. That’s what can happen for McDaniels in the D-League, and maybe someday in the NBA.

I touched on McDaniels back in May in my season recap series:

When he actually did play, K.J. McDaniels did seem to bring the dynamic I spoke of in that previous piece, giving the team flexibility, and at times allowing it to play James Harden at point guard.  Indeed, McDaniels had far and away the highest net rating on the entire team at +18.9, though that figure should be taken with at least a small grain of salt, given the sample size.  But for whatever reason, McDaniels rarely played, failing to crack the rotation, appearing in only 37 games and averaging 6.4 minutes per contest.  He shot 40% overall and 28% on 3’s, likely the cause for Bickerstaff’s reluctance, though those numbers are almost identical to Corey Brewer’s.

The Ringer piece agrees: McDaniels wasn’t just a highlight reel.  He was a positively impactful player in the small amount of minutes he got.  But for whatever reason–most likely his shooting deficiencies–he was never given a good faith opportunity to crack the rotation.  This while Corey Brewer was one of the worst regulars in the entire league.

[read more…]

in musings

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