The NBA’s latest trade veto makes things awkward for the Rockets

The Rockets should be pretty upset right now.
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In just a few months, the Houston Rockets went from the Western Conference Finals to an NBA laughingstock. They’re 28-28, and if the season ended today they would be a first-round appetizer for the Golden State Warriors. 

But last week’s trade deadline presented a long-term path to salvation. Then disaster struck. After failing to find any suitable offers for Dwight Howard or Ty Lawson, general manager Daryl Morey settled on a deal with the Detroit Pistons that netted him a protected (albeit valuable) first-round pick. Hurray!

Unfortunately, one of the outgoing pieces, Donatas Motiejunas, didn’t pass his physical, so the deal was voided, and now the Rockets are back where they started — except things are probably way more awkward now (via The Vertical):

After forward Donatas Motiejunas was unable to get physicians’ clearance for his troublesome back, the Detroit Pistons are in the process of voiding a three-team trade with Houston and Philadelphia, league sources told The Vertical. The physicians and specialists examining Montiejunas’ back refused to clear him, pushing Pistons executives to kill the deal agreed upon at Thursday’s trade deadline, league sources said. Motiejunas and guard Marcus Thornton will return to the Houston Rockets. Center Joel Anthony – who had been traded to Philadelphia by Houston after the three-team deal – will return to the Pistons. Detroit will also keep the top-eight protected 2016 first-round draft pick it sent to Houston.

This isn’t great news for Houston, where things could not possibly be any more uncomfortable. Not only do the Rockets lose a top-eight protected first-round pick — an increasingly valuable asset, by the way — but their roster is now comprised of several players who’re well aware that their front office either tried to trade them or basically did:

But is any of this actually Morey’s fault? We don’t know the specifics of what was offered for Howard, and it’s good on him not to settle for a bad package, right? The Motiejunas-Thornton deal was a steal for the Rockets, too. That’s a smart move any general manager would do. But the optics are unsightly, and (unfairly) feed into the notion that Houston doesn’t treat its players like human beings. 

The situation is less than ideal, but Morey will have an opportunity to clean things up this summer, when Houston has enough cap space for two max contracts. Until then, the Rockets’ locker room is not a very happy place.