Back on February 18, Donatas Motiejunas thought he was swapping Houston for Detroit as part of a three-team trade. Four days later, the Pistons voided the deal citing concerns over the 7'0" Lithuanian's back.
The initial trade sent Motiejunas and guard Marcus Thornton to Detroit along with a 2016 first-round pick and center Joel Anthony to Houston. The Rockets, in turn, sent a future second-round pick (via the Denver Nuggets), in addition to Anthony, to a pick-heavy Philadelphia 76ers and received Chukwudiebere Maduabum in return.
Motijunas returned to Texas and ended up playing for the Rockets four days later in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs. However, it seems the saga is far from finished as the NBA Players Association are said to be inserting themselves into the mix.
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Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports has reported that the NBPA “is strongly considering filing a grievance with the NBA” following Detroit’s last-minute decision to void the deal on medical grounds.
On the reasoning behind the Players Association wanting to intervene, Spears added: “Sources close to Motiejunas believe the voided trade could damage his status as a restricted free agent next offseason.”
Indeed, the talented big man could do without the stigma of a vulnerable back attached to him. Having seen how the Andrew Bynum trade to the Philadelphia 76ers worked out a few years ago, its a prime example of how ultra careful organisations have to be with the sizable investments they make.
The 25-year-old Rocket did undergo surgery on the issue in April of 2015, but having taken to the court days after the voided trade, the 20th draft pick in 2011 obviously feels hard done by.
Motiejunas said: "The team doctor simply says whether you pass or don't, although they may not 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 skilled giant, who can operate at center or power forward, has featured in five games for the Rockets since the trade that went south and contributed highs of seven points and five rebounds during those affairs.
Motiejunas' appearances in so many games so quickly must have done his reputation the power of good. The European export has displayed resolute defence and competent rebounding skills in his subsequent appearances and an NBA career average of four boards in just over 19 minutes is a respectable return.
Should he keep up these promising returns and prove himself to be healthy, there's no reason a defensive-minded big yet to hit his prime cannot attract some decent offers. However, the NBPA are out to ensure that Motiejunas' reputation is protected regardless.