By: Ramzy Kawaja
In a recent interview with Donatas Motiejunas, a Rockets.com reporter asked Houston’s 2011 first-round draft pick from Lithuania what his personal goal was for the 2012-13 NBA season. D-Mo happened to catch the team’s Vice President of Player Personnel Gersson Rosas walk by and insisted that he let his boss answer the question for him. His response, “Your goal is to improve in every area of your game, improve your body, and to find a way to see if you can get into the rotation.”
“Find a way to see if you can get into the rotation?!” This part of the answer really bugged me. With a team that has only two centers on its payroll (Well, three if you count Brockman), will the rookie really have to fight that hard to see some hardwood? One of my biggest pet-peeves of last season was that Kevin McHale’s leash on lottery-pick Marcus Morris was way too tight. The then first year man out of Kansas was trapped under a microscope so large that you could almost physically see the cogs turning in his head. Every mistake was amplified. The added pressure, in my opinion, was the reason for his teetering back and forth from the NBDL to the NBA then finally locked and sealed in the 12th chair on the bench.
In a year where the Rockets start their much needed rebuild, the rookies should get as much playing time as possible. Like all the seasoned pros before them, it’s tradition to let the nubile experience lumps and bruises. Make huge mistakes to grow from. Motiejunas isn’t going to reach his personal goal by getting coddled in a seat next to his coach. The Rockets aren’t rsvp-ing any invitations to the playoffs. The development of the youngsters should be the top priority on the franchise’s to-do list. All this talk about jockeying for position is very unnecessary and only mixes in the same pressure that is stunting Morris’ growth.
It’s true that instilling this notion in D-Mo’s head can be a positive. Not being assured of a roster spot can be the catalyst to ignite the competitive juices in the Lithuanian 20 year old. But we all know that the kid is already light-years ahead of most rookies in the NBA. I’m sure Donantas knows this as well. Having played professional ball since the ripe age of 17, you expect him to take to the new league like Mozzart to the piano or Rosanne to a cupcake. I just hope his coach has the patience to let him play through the errors much unlike the strategy used for Marcus Morris.