What is Motiejunas doing?

As reported by Yahoo! Sports, Donatas Motiejunas has refused to report to the Rockets for a physical exam.

Motiejunas is the Rockets’ restricted free agent. He signed an offer sheet with the Nets on December 2, which starts a 72-hour clock for the Rockets to match. If the Rockets match, they keep Motiejunas on the same principal terms as Brooklyn’s offer sheet. If the Rockets don’t match, the offer sheet becomes a contract with the Nets.

The Rockets chose to match on December 5, by issuing a First Refusal Exercise Notice. A team is allowed to condition its exercise of first refusal rights on the player passing a physical exam, and apparently the Rockets did just that. The player is required to report for his physical within two days, and must comply with the process.

However, Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, apparently have other ideas. As reported by Yahoo!, Motiejunas is refusing to report for his physical. And here’s where it gets weird:

I’m not entirely sure what “rights” Armstrong is referring to. The rules for restricted free agency are laid out pretty clearly in the CBA, and the players (collectively) agreed to those rules. Trying to get out of that arrangement goes against the spirit, intent and letter of restricted free agency, to which the players agreed.

Here’s the rule I’m referring to. I’m assuming that Houston’s qualifying offer was properly executed, Brooklyn’s offer sheet was properly executed, Houston’s first refusal exercise notice was properly executed, and that Houston conditioned its first refusal exercise notice on Motiejunas passing a physical:

(h) Any Team may condition its First Refusal Exercise Notice on the player reporting for and passing, in the sole discretion of the Team, a physical examination to be conducted by a physician designated by the Team within two (2) days from its exercise of the Right of First Refusal. In connection with the physical examination, the player must supply all information reasonably requested of him, provide complete and truthful answers to all questions posed to him, and submit to all examinations and tests requested of him. In the event the player does not pass the physical examination: (i) the ROFR Team may withdraw its First Refusal Exercise Notice within two (2) days following the date upon which such physical examination is conducted; and (ii) if the First Refusal Exercise Notice is withdrawn, the player and the New Team shall be deemed to have entered into a Player Contract in accordance with the provisions of Section 5(f) above. In the event the player does not submit to the requested physical examination within two (2) days of the exercise of the Right of First Refusal then, until such time as the player submits to the requested physical examination and is notified of the results, the ROFR Team’s conditional First Refusal Exercise Notice shall remain in effect, except that the ROFR Team may elect at any time to withdraw its First Refusal Exercise Notice, which shall have the effect of invalidating the Offer Sheet and causing the Team that issued the Offer Sheet to be prohibited from signing or acquiring the player for a period of one (1) year from the date the First Refusal Exercise Notice was withdrawn. If the player does not submit to the requested physical examination on or before March 1, the Offer Sheet shall be deemed invalid and the Team that issued the Offer Sheet shall be prohibited from signing or acquiring the player for a period of one (1) year from such March 1.

So, summarizing what the rule says:

  1. Houston is allowed to make its first refusal exercise notice contingent on Motiejunas passing a physical.
  2. The player must submit to and cooperate with his physical, which is to take place within two days of the exercise of the first refusal exercise notice.
  3. If Motiejunas doesn’t report for his physical, Houston’s first refusal exercise notice remains in effect until he does.
  4. However, Motiejunas’ refusal to submit for his physical gives the Rockets the option of withdrawing its first refusal exercise notice.
  5. If the Rockets withdraw its first refusal exercise notice, it invalidates Brooklyn’s offer sheet as well, and Motiejunas returns to restricted free agency.
  6. If the first refusal exercise notice is withdrawn, Brooklyn’s offer sheet is invalidated and Motiejunas returns to restricted free agency, Brooklyn can’t sign or acquire him for one year.

So the Rockets have two options at this point. First, they can just sit tight. Their first refusal exercise notice remains in effect until Motiejunas decides to report. He can’t sign or play anywhere else, including Brooklyn, in the meantime.

Second, the Rockets could withdraw its first refusal exercise notice, putting Motiejunas right back where he started — except Brooklyn is no longer an option. And if he doesn’t sign with the Rockets directly, or sign an offer sheet with another team in the meantime, then the Rockets can issue another qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent in 2017.

And it could get worse for him. The CBA also says a player shall not receive credit for a year of service for any year in which he “…withholds playing services called for by a Player Contract or this Agreement for more than thirty (30) days after the Season begins.” It’s important to note here that the rules for restricted free agency say that when a team issues a first refusal exercise notice, the player and team “…shall be deemed to have entered into a Player Contract.” Motiejunas is, for all intents and purposes, under contract with the Rockets now, and the Rockets have all the rules related to player discipline for failure to report at their disposal (along with the right to kick him to the curb by withdrawing their first refusal exercise notice).

This all seems pretty clear to me, so I’m still not sure what “rights” Armstrong is referring to. Maybe his end game is to get the Rockets to withdraw its first refusal exercise notice, and then Armstrong and the Rockets negotiate a separate contract that is more favorable to Motiejunas. But why should the Rockets let a player leverage them into signing a different contract that’s less favorable to the team, when the team holds all the cards here?

Armstrong isn’t exercising a right. He’s trying to strong-arm a team.

 

47 thoughts on “What is Motiejunas doing?

  1. K3v1n

    I think you should ask his agent. If DMo fired his agent, he will be still good in nba. If not, i dont think any manager un nba will give offer to him. Thats it.

    1. Lee

      I’d remind DMo of one Azic who want to be the star in Houston so he left and went to New Orleans. He’s not the star there and hasn’t played like he played in Houston. Be careful what you ask for

  2. davesmall

    Bad thinking by Motiejunas.

    Bad advice from his agent Armstrong.

    By not reporting for his physical he may further reduce his own free agent market value. Other teams may suspect he’s still having back issues and might have wanted to dodge that physical. Is this about not wanting to join the Rockets or not wanting to take a physical just now, any physical?

    Could there be another reason he doesn’t want to report? Is he afraid he might no t be able to beat out Decker, and certainly couldn’t beat out Ryan Anderson. Maybe he wants a team where he doesn’t have such tough competition for minutes. Sad if that’s his reasoning, because D’Antoni really likes him.

    Might be that he dislikes our esteemed General Manager, who tried to trade him to Detroit last year. No one wants to be treated like a poker chip. That might be his gripe.

      1. R41

        In Europe and throughout the world “restricted free agency” does not exist.
        You are under contract or you are a free agent.
        So DMo can play wherever he wants, and NBA can’t refuse to clear him to play abroad.

          1. lcoon Post author

            That’s not the point. He needs FIBA clearance and he won’t get it. NBA CBA has nothing to do with it. The presence of an active contract does.

  3. James

    One scenario that is unlikely at the moment but if Motiejunas does report and Houston fail him on the physical would he still remain a restricted FA?

    1. lcoon Post author

      Passing a physical is a contingency on the First Refusal Exercise Notice. If he fails Houston’s physical, the FREN is voided, so Brooklyn’s offer sheet would become a contract.

  4. Alvin

    According to Jonathon Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

    The contract with the Rockets would be worth as much as $31 million over four years, if the Rockets pick up their options on each season. It would have been worth as much as $37 million with the Nets, including potential bonuses that are not considered “principal terms” and that the Rockets are not required to match to match the offer sheet.

    Could you please explain what exactly are “principal terms”? Is the disagreement over what part of the contract are considered “principle terms”. Motiejunas thinks he should be getting $37 million but Rockets only giving $31 million? Is the way the Rockets matched acceptable under the CBA? Do teams typically match bonuses as well, to show good faith? It what the Rockets doing unusual in matching just the “principal terms” and that’s why Motiejunas feels slighted? Is there some sort of arbitration process if the two sides cannot agree to the terms of the contract? Would that process apply in this case?

    Thank you for your time. Cheers!

    1. lcoon Post author

      There’s no ambiguity and no negotiation required. The CBA spells out what are principal terms:

      The Principal Terms of an Offer Sheet are only:

      (i) the term of the Contract.
      (ii) the fixed and specified Compensation that the New Team will pay or lend to the Restricted Free Agent as a signing bonus, Current Base Compensation, and/or Deferred Base Compensation in specified installments on specified dates;

      (iii) Incentive Compensation; provided, however, that the only elements of such Incentive Compensation that shall be included in the Principal Terms are the following: (A) bonuses that qualify as Likely Bonuses based upon the performance of the Team extending the Offer Sheet and the ROFR Team; and (B) Generally Recognized League Honors; and

      (iv) Any allowable amendments to the terms contained in the Uniform Player Contract (e.g., Base Compensation protection, a trade bonus, etc.).

      To match an offer sheet, the ROFR team matches only the principal terms.

      1. Rocketjunkie

        What happens if dmo does not report by march 1? Does the exercise expire and dmo convert to rfa again (in which case he can sign an offer sheet with a team such as Utah) or is he under contract until he reports for a physical (and can’t sign with any team)?
        What happens if he shows up on February 28 to take a physical (assuming the rockets haven’t waived him which is what he wants). I assume he would be docked pay until he showed up, but wouldn’t the rockets have to then decide by march 1 whether to keep him for the following year, and when would he be tradeable in that circumstance?
        What if he goes to Russia to play instead of Europe?

        Sorry for the multiple questions. Thanks for your knowledge!

        1. lcoon Post author

          If a player in D-Mo’s situation doesn’t submit for a physical by March 1, then the Offer Sheet is invalid, and the new team can’t sign or acquire the player for one year from March 1.

          So if D-Mo doesn’t submit for his physical by 3/1/2017, Brooklyn’s offer sheet is wiped out, and D-Mo returns to being Houston’s restricted free agent. They can submit another offer sheet in 2017, and he will be restricted again for 2017-18.

          It’s not clear to me if he can decide to play elsewhere — Europe, Russia, anywhere — now. He’d need a Letter of Clearance to play in any FIBA league. I don’t think he can get one in this situation.

          1. Rocketjunkie

            Thanks Larry. There is some uncertain over at The clutchfans rocket site Because Morey conditioned his rfa match on a physical, is a contract still deemed to have been entered into if dmo does not show up for the physical? Your initial explanation indicates that a contract is entered into on a match which would imply that he is under contract. And if so, can his pay be docked as long as he doesn’t show up for the physical? And if he shows up on march 1 (or after Jan 25?) to take his physical, assuming the rockets haven’t waived or cut him or rescinded the match, does that mean Morey now has to immediately decide whether to pick him up for 2017 (and if so when is he traceable)?

  5. iserp

    This kind of thing happens when you treat people as assets and numbers. D-Mo does not want to play Morey’s game, and he might screw his career in spite. They should have given him the contract he wanted or let him walk, but decided to take the advantages of RFA to the maximum. Usually, if a player does not get a reasonable offer sheet, the home team signs a benevolent contract; but they offered (7 million/year) a figure similar to newly signed European rookies (Abrines 6 million/year).

    1. Miguel

      That’s like saying you shouldn’t hold someone to the rules when playing a game. Go ahead and let a player stay in the key as long as they want, etc. Nobody should feel guilty for following the rules.

      1. iserp

        The problem is that the rules are not for “fair” but for “entertaining”. NBA has some of the most contrived collective rules ever written for the sake of spectacle. So you are one of the best at what you do, and you are forced to play 8 years far from where you want? Not to mention that you cannot take a discount to play somewhere else? Or that playing at a discount makes you more likely to be traded?

        I understand that these guys are really well paid. But I think that they also have enough money to say FU if they are not being fairly treated.

    2. HH

      iserp – not really. Did you read the translated version of DMo’s Lithuanian interview following Detroit failing his physical? DMo blames Detroit for everything, not Houston. If I’m not mistaken, he’s still considering sueing Detroit. He feels they took the 48 hour period after the trade to decide whether they actually wanted to go through with it, changed their minds, and arbitrarily failed his physical.

      As far as things souring during the offseason, well, tough grapes. No one else offered him a contract. This is pretty clearly BJ Armstrong, tho.

    3. Ben

      There is already a mechanism for “not wanting to play the GM’s game” – it’s called asking the team politely not to match. Players do it all the time and rarely have I seen a team retain a player who simply doesn’t want to be signed by their previous team in RFA. Besides, if Dmo really didn’t want to “play Morey’s game”, then why was he quoted just a few days ago as saying he would play for any team that signs him including Houston?

      This just seems like Dmo’s agent making a power play and it’s unfortunate because it’s not really about what is in the best interest of Dmo’s career. Dmo needs to kick Armstrong to the curb where he belongs before he totally tanks his earning capacity as a basketball player in his prime. As Larry mentioned, the rules are pretty clear in the CBA and this is after all the rules that the teams, players, and their agents agreed upon.

  6. Obviously

    He is just sick of the Rockets and wants to be in another team, isn’t that clear? After that scandal with Pistons, when they boasted how important D-mo is to the club’s future, they transferred him next day and after seeing failed health examination test it looks like it was staged – the Rockets just wanted to reduce D-Mo market value, so they could offer him contract with minimum possible salary – his health is fine, brooklyn just proved it.. When such club has no respect for players, no wonder they will do anything, just to get away from the Rockets as far as possible. And to all these “critics” who say D-Mo acting like a child, you are plainly close minded – D-Mo finally stood up instead of being pushed over like a toy. You should praise his move and criticise Houston managers… Have a good day.

    1. dl

      ^I agree to this. The managerial position of saving club money (and most likely earning some bonuses this way) by putting D-Mo through the mud is bad karma. And by screwing him up legally is even worse. Screw you Morey.

    2. HH

      No, it isn’t clear, and you’re wrong. He wants the 6 mill difference in incentives between the Brooklyn offer and Houston’s match. It has nothing to do with Houston vs. Brooklyn.

      Also, you act like the moves DMo has made are to his advantage. I honestly think the Rockets prefer what he’s doing – they only really need him for injury protection (I’m guessing he’d only get 12-15 MPG if he were on roster), so it makes sense for HOU to retain his rights without having to pay him anything.

      He has literally played RIGHT into the hands of HOU and Daryl Morey. It isn’t about being critical of DMo. I like the guy. I want him to play. I think most are being critical of BJ Armstrong. These moves make no sense for DMo. None.

  7. Mike

    Houston call pull the offer if DMO doesnt report, but he will become a RFA again. However, there are reports that the Jazz will offer him a much better deal if he becomes a RFA. If the Rockets don’t want him to become a RFA again, they can let the deal expire March 1st. So what happens after March 1st? Is he a RFA again?

  8. Ed

    Motiejunas is the best,and its the way to go….Greedy rockets must show respect for this Lithuanian great.Donatas rulezzzz!

  9. Patrick Devine

    While all comments so far deal with DeMo’s status as an NBA player, none raise the topic of his status as a resident of the USA and how the former affects the latter. I believe DeMo is still a Lithuanian citizen and resides in Houston courtesy of a work visa of some sort. Typically, visas require a sponsor, in this case the Rockets, as employers who gainfully employ the recipient. While technically DeMo has a contract, he has not been, nor is he currently being, paid. Hence no “Gainful” going on. No money coming in, no taxes going out. No measurable productivity of any kind.
    Any insights here?

    1. lcoon Post author

      We’re getting into a gray area — it’s not entirely cut & dried. That said, my current interpretation is that he’s NOT considered to be under contract to the Rockets. There are two rules in play here:

      (e) If, within three (3) days from the date it receives an Offer Sheet, the ROFR Team gives to the Restricted Free Agent a “First Refusal Exercise Notice” substantially in the form of Exhibit H annexed hereto, then, subject to Section 5(h) below, such Restricted Free Agent and the ROFR Team shall be deemed to have entered into a Player Contract containing all the Principal Terms (but not any terms other than the Principal Terms) included in the Uniform Player Contract attached to the Offer Sheet (except that if the Contract contains an Exhibit 6, such Exhibit 6 shall be deemed deleted). Such Contract may not thereafter be amended in any manner for a period of one (1) year.

      The rule above says that when the team gives a First Refusal Exercise Notice, it is “deemed to have entered into a Player Contract.” However, it says it’s subject to Section 5(h), which says:

      (h) Any Team may condition its First Refusal Exercise Notice on the player reporting for and passing, in the sole discretion of the Team, a physical examination to be conducted by a physician designated by the Team within two (2) days from its exercise of the Right of First Refusal. In connection with the physical examination, the player must supply all information reasonably requested of him, provide complete and truthful answers to all questions posed to him, and submit to all examinations and tests requested of him. In the event the player does not pass the physical examination: (i) the ROFR Team may withdraw its First Refusal Exercise Notice within two (2) days following the date upon which such physical examination is conducted; and (ii) if the First Refusal Exercise Notice is withdrawn, the player and the New Team shall be deemed to have entered into a Player Contract in accordance with the provisions of Section 5(f) above. In the event the player does not submit to the requested physical examination within two (2) days of the exercise of the Right of First Refusal then, until such time as the player submits to the requested physical examination and is notified of the results, the ROFR Team’s conditional First Refusal Exercise Notice shall remain in effect, except that the ROFR Team may elect at any time to withdraw its First Refusal Exercise Notice, which shall have the effect of invalidating the Offer Sheet and causing the Team that issued the Offer Sheet to be prohibited from signing or acquiring the player for a period of one (1) year from the date the First Refusal Exercise Notice was withdrawn. If the player does not submit to the requested physical examination on or before March 1, the Offer Sheet shall be deemed invalid and the Team that issued the Offer Sheet shall be prohibited from signing or acquiring the player for a period of one (1) year from such March 1.

      This rule says:

      1. The team can make the FREN subject to passing a physical.
      2. If the player doesn’t cooperate, then the conditional FREN remains in effect.

      So I think the situation we’re in with regard to D-Mo’s relationship with the Rockets is the same as it was for the first two days, while they were expecting him to report. The FREN isn’t complete, so he’s not deemed to be under contract.

      1. Mike

        I guess this means D-Mo will wait for his contract sheet to expire March 1st in order to become a restricted free agent again and possibly have more teams offer him a contract. It could be less or more, but he has more opportunities. I expect him not to report for his physical with the Rockets and will let his offer sheet expire after March 1st. He will likely sit out the rest of this season.

  10. Kevin W

    Hey Larry,
    This is Kevin W who helped review one of your CBA revisions. Long time. You may night remember I’m a STH for the Rockets…big fan. Sorry about the trouncing last night. 😉

    Anyhoot, I was reading that yesterday, too. Thx for your interpretation.

    What do you think about the fact the Rockets placed DMo on their Inactive List last night for the Lakers game. http://www.nba.com/data/html/nbacom/2016/gameinfo/20161207/0021600326_Book.pdf

    Compare that to the definition of Active, Inactive and Suspension List in the NBA Constitution here: http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/files/221035054-nba-constitution-and-by-laws.pdf

    Seems clear to me that he’s eligible to be Suspending, now. Comments? Appreciate your blog and comments. Big fan. Thx for all the work.

    1. lcoon Post author

      I think it’s a unique situation that’s not clearly and specifically defined, and as such, all bets are off. My plain reading of the language led me to one interpretation, but that doesn’t seem to be the same as the league’s interpretation, given that he was on Houston’s inactive list. I would imagine that if they could put him on an active/inactive list then he’d also be subject to player discipline, but that’s just an assumption.

      And don’t worry about the trouncing — I was at Clippers-Warriors last night for a different trouncing.

  11. Chris

    Larry, what would happen if DMo were to report for his physical on January 9, a day before the Rockets deadline to decide whether to pay him for the rest of the year? Assuming he passed the physical, would he get his $5M signing bonus and the $3.5M remainder of this year’s salary, while only giving the team a two-month window to make a decision regarding their option for the 2017-2018 season?

    1. lcoon Post author

      I think the Rockets will plan their response in a way that precludes something like that from happening.

  12. Rocketjunkie

    Larry, regarding your revised interpretation of dmo’s status, it could easily be argued that section 5(h) does not undo dmo’s contract status under rule (e) unless the rockets are the ones withdrawing the FREN. The applicable facts relate to dmo’s refusal to show up, and the section 5(h) gives the rockets the right to pull the FREN at any time (a benefit to the rockets) or after march 1 have the offer sheet invalidated. Neither of those undo dmo’s contract status under rule (e) unless the rockets themselves pull the FREN or march 1 arrives. Otherwise (and I suspect this is what bj Armstrong is intending), dmo is not an employee and can’t be docked pay. He shows up Jan 10th or so to retain his year eligibility and takes his physical and immediately gets a $5m signing bonus followed by the other $3m for 2016, and on march 1 the rockets have to decide about 2017. Or he can show up on march 1 or feb 28 to take the physical and the rockets have to pay him the $5m signing bonus and the $3m remainder of the year and decide his 2017 option. That’s a pretty big hole, and maybe it exists but I’m not sure that 5(h) provide the hole (I note I am NOT a cba person and am only reading your comment). I have no intention of challenging you and appreciate your incredible knowledge of the cba. I just wanted to possibly point out the potential interpretation. Long story short, can the rockets dock dmo’s pay or charge it against his signing bonus if he decides to show up on February 28 or march 1? My guess is yes but I wasn’t Auden if you’ve talked to the nba folks or come to your own conclusion?

  13. Kevin W

    Hey Larry,
    Kevin W again

    Saw your response at BBallInsider. Ignore my morning question, since you already answerd. My updated question is this.

    Based upon him being on the Roster (however it happened), do your agree in each scenario, that he is either under contract or “deemed to be under contract” and now for sure ” the Rockets have all the rules related to player discipline for failure to report at their disposal” as you originally said in your “What is DMo Doing” article in your blog

    tia

    1. lcoon Post author

      I think it’s a non-standard situation, and subject to interpretation. The interpretation might be that the Rockets have all of the rights with him that they have with any other player under contract, or the interpretation might be something else. My plain reading of the CBA led me to one interpretation that isn’t parsimonious with the Rockets having him on their roster sheet. Like I’ve been saying, this is one of those gray areas where I can’t say for sure.

  14. R41

    You can try to get an European judge to rule that a professional player cannot work even if he is not under contract.
    Good luck at it.

    1. Kevin W

      The European judge would be looking at a contractual agreement among all leagues in FIBA stating that one league cannot sign a player from another league without a Letter of Clearance from the incumbent league.

      As you say, “Good luck at it” finding a European judge who allows a team in the Euroleague to break that agreement, thus opening the doors to the NBA to snipe players off of Euroleague teams.

      1. R41

        There is not such an agreement and even if it exists, it will be voided.
        Let’s write it in capital letters: nobody can forbid an unemployed player to work.
        It is a constitutionally guaranteed right that can’t be limited in any way.
        It’s as simple as this.

        1. lcoon Post author

          Nobody’s preventing an unemployed player from working. He has an employment contract, legally executed according to the collectively bargained rules that govern his employment. He’s not unemployed. Choosing not to honor the contract he signed, and the rules that govern them, is not the same as being unemployed. What he CAN’T do is to arbitrarily choose to work for whomever he pleases, just because he doesn’t like the terms of his contractual obligation. Sorry, but your interpretation is just silly.

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