Just when we thought the long, strange saga of Donatas Motiejunas had finally come to an end, D-Mo and agent/certified loon B.J. Armstrong got the bright idea of trying to play hardball with the Rockets organization and GM Daryl Morey.
Motiejunas skipped his scheduled physical and Armstrong went public, yapping barely coherent about D-Mo’s “rights,” sounding like the permanently slighted neighborhood wino, complaining to anyone who will listen about the imaginary transgressions that put him where he is today. The rest of us know it was his own damn fault.
Motiejunas' agent, B.J. Armstrong: "We have our rights. We're not going to show up. We'll see what happens. We'll see what the Rockets do."— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) December 6, 2016
That brings us to the latest news that has the situation get even stranger. According to ESPN’s Calvin Watkins, the point of contention between the two sides is a $6 million difference between the Nets’ offer and the Rockets’ that takes the form of incentive-based bonus money. The Rockets are only required to match the principal of the deal, which is 4 years, $31 million. Armstrong wants the extra $6 mil for his client and apparently advised D-Mo to stay at home until he gets it.
The Rockets have responded by deciding to hold Motiejunas to the offer sheet that they matched and officially putting D-Mo on the roster. That makes him currently inactive and eligible to be fined for not reporting (although the Rockets have not said they will go that route, at least not yet and not publicly). As long he continues to not report, this puts Motiejunas in limbo until at least March 1 when the deal expires. In the meantime, D-Mo is ineligible to play for any other team, even overseas.
Apparently to Armstrong, this is his idea of exercising his client’s “rights.” And technically he is correct. D-Mo does have the right to not report. This isn’t Soviet-era Russia, and D-Mo’s not going to find himself chained to the wall in some freezing Siberian gulag for denying his government-issued work order. So yes, he does have the right to stay at home. But what exactly is the end game here?
There have been rumors of Armstrong being enamored with a late-hour offer from another team. But if that’s true, surely he didn’t believe the Rockets would just let D-Mo back into the RFA pool to re-sign a new, more expensive offer sheet that they would then have to match again? What a foolish mistake by an increasingly incompetent-appearing Armstrong if that’s what they were hoping for.
According to Watkins, the Rockets are technically able to work out a separate deal for D-Mo external to the one they just matched that would be more palatable to Team Armstrong/Motiejunas, and the team has actually been open to doing so as a sign they are still willing to work with the player, even after all of this. But they are said to want to remain in the $31 million range, for obvious reasons. Why bid against the signed contract you already have?
As this drama-infused scenario continues to unfold, Donuts and, even more specifically, Armstrong continue to look worse and worse. Armstrong had to be aware that the Rockets only needed to match the principal dollars of the qualifying offer in order to retain D-Mo’s rights. If the deal from the Nets didn’t contain enough on the principal end, they weren’t forced to sign it.
So one of two things happened here. Either Armstrong obtained this deal knowing the Rockets would match and planned all along on an unprecedented attempt at strong-arming the Rockets and skirting around the restricted free agency rules. Or, he has no idea or understanding of some the basic and simple rules of NBA free agency. One scenario makes him unqualified to be representing anyone, the other makes him a kind of a jerk.
Yes, I realize this is business, and the goal of a player’s agent is to get as much money as possible, and the goal of the team is to get as much talent for as little money as possible. But there are rules in place to make sure this all runs smoothly and it isn’t the wild, wild west out there. The Rockets have followed them. Armstrong and D-Mo are trying to get around them.
In the meantime, the Rockets are cruising along with a 15-7 record. And though the team could use some additional front line depth, the more success they are having, the less likely Rockets management is to bend over backwards for a player they’ve already tried to treat fairly.
Former Houston beat writer Fran Blinebury dropped some OG knowledge on this exact scenario that’s worth the read . The Rockets are winning and having fun. D-Mo and Armstrong have played themselves and are sitting on the sidelines watching the train roll on without them.
Houston has been one of the league’s best stories through the first quarter of the year. D-Mo could and should be a part of it. In fact, he’s said publicly he’d be more than happy to return to Houston. The Rockets players and coach have all said publicly they’d love to welcome him back. The Rockets have played by the rules in order to get him back in the fold. Should it fail to happen, Motiejunas and Armstrong will have no one to blame but themselves.