After a saga that has dragged on for several months, forward Donatas Motiejunas is finally rejoining the Houston Rockets on a partially guaranteed long-term contract, league sources told The Vertical.
After the Rockets freed Motiejunas of the terms of the restricted free-agent offer sheet he signed with Brooklyn, the two sides negotiated a similar four-year deal that could be worth between $35 million and $37 million with bonus clauses, league sources told The Vertical.
The contract’s base value is $31 million.
The terms are close to the offer sheet that Motiejunas signed with the Brooklyn Nets last week, but there are conditions in the new deal that are more beneficial to each side. For instance, Motiejunas will be fully guaranteed his $8.3 million salary this season, and the Rockets will have the flexibility to trade Motiejunas’ contract sooner than under the terms of matching the offer sheet.
Motiejunas’ agent, B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group, made a strong strategic move when he refused to let Motiejunas accept the terms of the Nets’ offer sheet and report to the Rockets for a physical this week. Armstrong was able to negotiate better terms with Houston, which did not have to honor the bonus clauses in Brooklyn’s offer sheet based on the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Motiejunas, 26, will have an annual July trigger date for the Rockets to guarantee his contract for the final three years of the deal, league sources said.
For the Rockets, an advantage to tearing up the offer sheet and negotiating a new deal is that Motiejunas is eligible to be traded in three months without his consent. Under the matched offer sheet, the Rockets would’ve had to wait one year to move Motiejunas.
Motiejunas, who played 37 games last season following back surgery, and the Rockets had been unable to come to terms on an agreement, causing the 7-footer to miss training camp and Houston’s 15-7 start. Coach Mike D’Antoni has been eager to incorporate Motiejunas into the Rockets’ frontcourt and join the current No. 4 seed in the Western Conference.
The uncertainty around Houston’s willingness to agree to a long-term deal with Motiejunas was because of his back issues. Motiejunas was examined by Nets doctors recently and the results gave comfort to Brooklyn to move forward with the offer sheet.
Assuming Motiejunas passes his Houston physical, he’ll begin practice with the team and make his season debut soon.
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