The Detroit Pistons' acquisition of forward Donatas Motiejunas and guard Marcus Thornton has been voided after Motiejunas failed a post-trade physical.
The Pistons announced the decision after Shams Charania of The Vertical first reported the news Monday. Motiejunas, 25, has been limited to 14 games this season because of ongoing back issues. He has not played in a game since Dec. 31, though he was recently with Houston's NBA D-League affiliate trying to get back into shape.
While the Pistons agreed to the deal with full knowledge of Motiejunas' back issues, cracks began to show when it came to finalization. The NBA granted Detroit's request for a 24-hour extension to continue evaluating Motiejunas' back, per Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com, giving the Pistons until 6 p.m. ET Monday to sign off.
"One of the guys that was with him in Houston—it’s a guy I know—likened it to what [J.J.] Redick had," Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy said last week, per Keith Langlois of NBA.com. "Said there’ll be occasional flare-ups, which J.J. had a little bit this year. But for the most part, OK now. If that’s the case, you’re going to live with a guy having to miss three or four games every once in a while to get a guy of his talent.”
After a closer examination, Detroit's medical staff and a team of specialists had enough evidence to reportedly not clear Motiejunas for game action. The deal itself involved three teams, with the Philadelphia 76ers receiving center Joel Anthony and a second-round pick in exchange for the rights to Nigerian forward Chukwudiebere Maduabum. Anthony will return to the Pistons.
Houston received Maduabum, along with a protected first-round pick from Detroit. Maduabum's rights will revert to the Sixers, while the pick will head back to the Pistons.
It's hard to say which of these three teams comes away the most frustrated. The Sixers were a tertiary figure in the trade, but they waived forward JaKarr Sampson to make room for Anthony on their roster. That move does not get rescinded despite the deal being voided, and Sampson is finalizing a two-year deal with the Denver Nuggets, per Charania, who cited Sampson's agent.
In a nutshell: Philly lost a 22-year-old role player who has flashed some promise for nothing.
The Rockets were the biggest on-paper winner of the initial trade, as they were acquiring a pick that had a chance to be a back-lottery selection for a player who had barely touched the floor all season. Motiejunas had flashed potential as a stretch 4, but Clint Capela and Terrence Jones have adequately filled the power forward slot. Landing a first for a bench player with back issues was a pretty big win.
Detroit's medical staff probably saved Van Gundy from himself here, but there are some short-term implications. Motiejunas and Thornton figured into the Pistons' plans for the stretch run, where they'll attempt to snap the longest playoff drought in franchise history. Thornton would have slid into the role vacated by Brandon Jennings, who was sent to Orlando as part of the Tobias Harris trade.
Most of all, this is a big loss for Motiejunas, who is a restricted free agent this summer. He was already going to have medical red flags hampering him, and this deal being voided will likely suppress his market even more.
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