The newest member of the New Orleans Pelicans, Donatas Motiejunas, spoke with Basketball Insiders about his free agency nightmare and eventual decision.
“It was one of the worst situations of my life that I’ve had”, begins Donatas Motiejunas, discussing his hellish free agency tour over the summer of 2016 with Michael Scotto. Before signing with the New Orleans Pelicans, Motiejunas lived through a well-documented saga that shined a light on the business side of basketball, for better and worse.
“It was just a ridiculous situation, the resolution was taking too long, and it was affecting me as a player, and it was affecting me personally,” continues Motiejunas, giving the impression that perhaps the battle was fought more by his agent, former Chicago Bull B.J. Armstrong, than by Motiejunas himself. He clearly had an impression of what he was worth as a basketball player, and of how much work he had put in to create that value, and felt disrespected by teams who didn’t see things his way.
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The entire problem began when Motiejunas missed the end of the 2014-15 season due to injury. Those problems would bleed into the 2015-16 campaign, before Motiejunas’s Rockets attempted to trade him at last year’s trade deadline. “The hardest part, probably, was that unknown,” remarked the big man.
On his return to the NBA with the New Orleans Pelicans, Motiejunas said, “My goal is to help Anthony Davis to be better, my goal is to help the other players play the right way, help them to find a role.” That’s a great starting point for a player who has already displayed value for the Pels as a floor-spacer, passer, and interior presence. Even if he can be the basketball equivalent of a high-upside, “innings eating” pitcher, Motiejunas is an upgrade over the Pelicans’ other options.
The setup already looks to be mutually beneficial: “I know, as soon as I step on the floor, the people are going to see that I’m the same guy that I was last year when I was playing”, said the lumbering Lithuanian. Scotto goes on to remark that this opportunity could be the charmed third time for Motiejunas, leading to a more lucrative financial future.