Donatas Motiejunas thinks Detroit's voided deal for him was a sham

Donatas throws one up. (Getty Images)
Donatas throws one up. (Getty Images)

Prior to the NBA’s trade deadline Houston Rockets big man Donatas Motiejunas has played just 14 basketball games in 2015-16. The versatile center/forward was felled with back issues, and it was a slight surprise that Detroit decided to send a first round pick Houston’s way for the rights for a player that could bolt as a free agent this summer without ever having suited up for the Pistons due to that same back injury.

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According to Donatas, that brand of buyer’s remorse was the reason the team balked on the deal following a series of physicals spent focusing on his back woes. Motiejunas was sent back to Houston four days after the trade deadline after Detroit voided the deal citing injury concerns, and nobody seems happy about how things went down.

The player in question is first in the complaint line. From a translated interview with a Lithuanian newspaper, found by an enterprising Reddit user:

The medical examination is a funny thing. The team doctor simply says whether you pass or don't, although they may not even do any checks. Those 48 hours actually just let the team decide whether they want you or not. The Pistons announced I did not pass the medical, although I surely did pass it and played even before it. I just got ‘screwed'. The injury was a pretense to call off the trade. They changed their minds.

The Rockets were not giving me away for free, they got a high draft pick. A high pick is very useful, so I completely understand them. From my side, I see it as a business. I know they did not want to give me away and offered many other players to the Pistons, but the guys in Detroit wanted only me.

Now I will be talking to my agent and lawyers to clarify what to do next. The Pistons had access to my full medical history, so they shouldn't have done what they did to me. They decreased my value. The medical examination I ‘failed' was a joke. The Pistons will have some explaining to do why they did not want the trade anymore. We will see what happens.

“Pretense!” J’accuse!

We try not to be tinfoil hat-types here at BDL, but this is worth considering. Even before word came down that the Pistons were pulling back on the trade, we wondered about both buyer’s remorse considering the Motiejunas deal, and the idea that the Pistons (who managed to grab Tobias Harris from Orlando for what is expected to be two expiring contracts) could talk themselves into tossing a pick away for the scoring big regardless of his short-term health issues.

There were ample reasons to like and not like the deal, from Detroit’s side, especially when considering the context of the Harris transaction. Pistons coach and team el jefe Stan Van Gundy also seemed to be arguing away the idea of adding Donatas prior to the void:

“ […]you’re going to live with a guy having to miss three or four games every once in a while to get a guy of his talent.”

Motiejunas has talent. He can score in the post on either block over either shoulder, and under Van Gundy it was assumed that he could turn into the sort of stretch shooter that could either complement Andre Drummond, or effectively spell him off the bench.

We’re not here to toss accusations SVG’s way, or in the direction of Pistons general manager Jeff Bower. Both possess massive basketball brains that work alongside sound convictions. Detroit wants to win this year, they want to make the playoffs, and they wanted Motiejunas to be a part of that effort.

Houston – which played Donatas on Saturday night (two points, two turnovers and three fouls in nine minutes) for the first time since the last day of 2015 – does have a dog in this fight. His presence pushes the team back into luxury tax territory; not an ideal position for a squad stuck at 29-30, just a half game up in the race for the last seed in the Western playoff bracket.

If the Rockets make the playoffs, they’ll lose their first round pick to Denver. That outcome is a result of a much-celebrated (universally, mind you) deal that sent Ty Lawson to Houston for a seeming song.

What’s more important is Motiejunas’ remarks about how Detroit may have dealt a blow to his future chances at extended earnings.

Detroit was well within its rights to pass on Donatas following a series of physicals, but even in what will be a crazy offseason in the summer of 2016 (watch – some teams are going to make some lockout-altering mistakes), the idea that a win-now team run by a coach would pass on what seemed like a perfect fit in favor of a middling first round draft pick can’t help but re-shape the way teams approach the idea of “Donatas Motiejunas, Restricted Free Agent.”

This might be the offseason that sees Ryan Anderson get a max contract. This might be the offseason that watches as DeMar DeRozan lords over July. This offseason, with its extended salary cap, will be silly.

Donatas Motiejunas, despite his age (26, next September) and clear talent, might be left out of things. The restricted free agency hurts, but so will the idea that a desperate Detroit team passed on his presence for his work outside of those “three of four games.” There might not be a lot of legal precedence in this realm, but Motiejunas might be on the verge of making it.

In the meantime, Houston uneasily continues apace, while Detroit keeps its pick. And things are going to go absolutely haywire once the 2016 offseason hits.

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Kelly Dwyer

is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!