Last year as the Rockets were gearing up for the playoffs and starting to hit their groove — winning seven of ten games — Donatas Motiejunas started to experience some lower back pain and was ruled out of a Timberwolves game on March 27th.
We learned Motiejunas would be shut down for the next one to two weeks and the Rockets re-evaluate to see if he'd be available for any part of the rest of the season.
"I still had hope when they told me in two weeks we'd re-evaluate again," Motiejunas told the media during the Rockets uniform unveiling event "I was still hoping I'd be able to play and come back,"
Motiejunas was having a clear-cut career year and had become a valued membered of the Rockets, working himself into a starter and one of the better scoring options on the team.
When the news came down that Motiejunas would be shut down for the rest of the season and he'd need surgery, he was understandably disappointed.
"When they told me I must get surgery it was really upsetting from my position," Motiejunas said.
The Rockets finished up the season 8-3 and made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals.
But when the Rockets faced the Warriors t was clear as day the Rockets were down two starters. Stephen Curry was getting whatever he wanted on a night-in, night-out basis and the need for another scoring option besides James Harden and Dwight Howard was becoming evident.
The Rockets ended up only winning one game against the eventual NBA champions.
"It was tough to watch the guys play, I was frustrated at many points during the playoffs, I wish I could help," Motiejunas said.
But now it's a new season, the Rockets are returning pretty much the entire roster — Josh Smith signed with Clippers but Ty Lawson is here now — the team should have the most continuity they have had in seasons.
A new, healthier Motiejunas is ready for the season to start.
"Now (that) everything passed away, (a) new season is right here, that's pretty much what I'm looking forward (to)," Motiejunas said.
And now there is a new goal for the man that set career highs all over the place last season.
"This season I am going to work 10 times harder to avoid all the injuries and go all the way to the finals and win the finals," Motiejunas said.
Of course, D-Mo is still working himself back and is likely to miss a little bit of the start of training camp, but the fire and hunger is there for him to go higher and farther this year.
With a healthy Motiejunas and a healthy Rockets team there are very few heights they can't reach.