The Rockets won’t withdraw their first refusal exercise notice on Donatas Motiejunas‘ offer sheet, reports Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). For now, Houston appears willing to wait out the situation in the hopes that Motiejunas eventually reports to the team and finalizes his deal.
As we noted yesterday, Motiejunas is reportedly at odds with the Rockets over a $6MM discrepancy between the offer sheet he signed with the Nets and the deal he’d have to sign with the Rockets. Motiejunas’ four-year, $37MM offer sheet from Brooklyn featured $4MM in likely incentives and $2MM in unlikely incentives. Because those bonuses weren’t included in the principal terms of the contract, the Rockets had no obligation to match them, meaning the deal is now worth $31MM.
With Motiejunas not reporting to the Rockets, the team had two options: Wait out the situation, or withdraw its refusal notice and return him to restricted free agency. In the latter scenario, Motiejunas would be unable to sign another offer sheet with the Nets, but he could sign one with any other team. When I examined the 26-year-old’s options yesterday, I pointed out that there would be little incentive for the Rockets to make Motiejunas an RFA again if they felt there was any chance a team would put a bigger offer on the table, forcing Houston to pay more to match it.
It’s possible that the two sides could work out a new arrangement that perhaps restores some of the incentives Motiejunas lost out on when the Rockets matched his offer sheet. But Houston has worked players like Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell into its rotation in Motiejunas’ absence, and the team doesn’t appear to be missing him too badly. If they were to renegotiate the deal, the Rockets would almost certainly want to push back the date on which Motiejunas’ 2017/18 salary becomes guaranteed — the Nets’ offer sheet calls for that to happen on March 1.
March 1 is also a date to watch because after that point Motiejunas can’t sign an offer sheet with another team during the 2016/17 league year. Beginning in March, the veteran forward can only sign with the Rockets, and if he doesn’t get something done, he’d be a restricted free agent again in 2017/18. If the two sides remain in a standoff, Motiejunas’ camp may ultimately relent in late February, since their client’s leverage would be further limited after that time. Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com made that same point today in his Insider-only look at the situation with cap expert Larry Coon.