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.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of

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