Donatas Motiejunas had harsh words for the Detroit Pistons after the organization voided their trade for him. Stan Van Gundy fired back at the accusations on Monday.
The Detroit Pistons made waves around the NBA at the trade deadline for both what they did and what they ended up not doing in the end. The Pistons briefly acquired Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton from the Houston Rockets in exchange for their 2016 first round draft pick and Joel Anthony, only to void the trade after Motiejunas took and failed a physical.
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All players involved in transactions are required to take physical examinations in order to complete trades, and there was concern about Motiejunas’s ability to pass leading up to the time of the event itself. Motiejunas has struggled with the aftereffects of an April back surgery resulting from a herniated disk. He missed most of the first two months of the season for the Rockets, and has only played 16 games this season.
Motiejunas has only played two games in 2016, and both of those were after the Pistons voided the trade and returned him to the Rockets. In those two games, he played a total of 28 minutes and scored eight points on 2-for-7 shooting in losses to the San Antonion Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks.
Motiejunas is entering a contract year, and will become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, so this failed physical is an undeniable blow to his value on the market value.
He commented on Monday when speaking with reporters from Lithuania. Motiejunas believes that the Pistons failed him on purpose because the organization had a change of heart about the trade.
"“The medical examination is a funny thing,” Motiejunas told Lithuanian reporters. “The team doctor simply says whether you pass or don’t, although they may not even do any checks. Those 48 hours actually just let the team decide whether it wants a player or not. The Pistons announced I did not pass the medical, although I surely did pass it and played even before it.”Motiejunas, who will become a restricted free agent, went on to say that the Pistons decreased his free-agent value due to the failed physical and should have to explain why they didn’t want the trade to go through."
According to Rockets’ blog The Dream Shake, Motiejunas is also considering consulting lawyers and taking legal action against the Pistons.
What’s more likely is that the burden of proof is higher on Motiejunas than it is on your typical player taking a physical. NBA big men who suffer herniated discs have a near 75 percent recurrence rate, and if Motiejunas feels healthy today there is no promise that he will feel healthy tomorrow. In essence, this is a physical that was not simply based on the present, but the future as well.
It’s understandable that Motiejunas may be infuriated by the way things developed, but teams have the leverage when it comes to passing and failing these examinations.
Head coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy commented on Motiejunas’s accusations on Monday. According to Brendan Savage of MLive, Van Gundy was understanding of Motiejunas’s dismay at the situation, but he didn’t lend credence to his allegations.
"“No,” Van Gundy said Tuesday. “We went through a very thorough process and we made the decision we made for the reasons that we thought it was too much risk.“Look, I feel bad for him, too, because I understand his points in terms of his value and everything else. But we felt we had to make the decision we made.”"
It’s true that this is going to torpedo Motiejunas’s value in the coming offseason, and it’s going to hurt him financially and from a long-term security standpoint, as nobody is going to take an expensive max contract shot for him in this coming free agency period. As the salary cap is exploding this coming offseason, this will certainly cost him a massive amount of money. It’s understandable, but nobody felt overly confident about his back issues at the time of the trade, and the Pistons decision to fail him and void the trade simply confirmed the worst fears of everybody involved.
It’s also important to remember that the Rockets themselves haven’t found it in themselves to put him on the floor much. The trade was voided on February 22nd, and his return debut to the Rockets wasn’t until three games after that date, on February 27th, a home game against the Spurs in which he played eight minutes.
It’s unlikely that the Rockets feel especially comfortable with his health prospects at this time either, and while the basketball world feels sympathy for what these recent events mean for Motiejunas’s future, the Pistons probably did the right thing for their own future.