May 12, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas (20) listens as the Los Angeles Clippers call a timeout in game five of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Rockets won 124 to 103. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
One thing I look for in basketball is the player who may not be the star, who may not be the loudest character, but often is a hard worker who does a lot of the dirty work which leads to the teams success. This article is about someone I perceive to be exactly that type of player on the Houston Rockets: Donatas Motiejunas; but first let me address a couple of things beforehand.
As readers of Space City Scoop get to know me and read my columns you’ll find out that my take on basketball goes in a different direction. It may seem whimsical, it may even pass as odd sometimes.
I say this because I’m from Brazil.Yeah, that place where people weirdly prefer to kick a ball instead of throw or pass it! And, while this may come as a shock since Brazil is an increasingly growing market for the NBA, we sometimes lack the analytic approach that is necessary to talk about the big league.
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Perhaps even more amusing is I consider myself a Rockets fan. In Brazil we have two types of NBA fans: we have cyclical fans, the ones who tune in for great games and then playoffs or finals, and of course the hardcore fans. But, why the Rockets you might ask? My answer is: why not the Rockets?
You see, in Brazil we don’t get the whole “franchise model” like when a team leaves a city and moves to a new city we really don’t get what’s going on. We don’t operate like that. Rather, NBA fans here are seasonal. We had the M.J. era, the Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal era, and most recently the LeBron James era, so we tend to view the game as it revolves around superstars.
Brazil is a soccer culture, and here we tend to say that we don’t choose whom we cheer for, we are actually born like that. So, the Brazilian fan I guess is capable of shifting this sort of ability to other sports cultures like basketball. Here you can live far from a city and still cheer for the team that represents it.
I didn’t have any attachment to the city of Houston when I “chose” the Rockets however, when I traveled to Houston this January to see my Rockets play against the Jazz the emotion was as if I belonged to that place from the beginning. But still, one question remains: Why Donatas Motiejunas?
Here we have a Brazilian Rockets fan, proposing an article about a Lithuanian guy with no superstar appeal as his first post.
While I could be writing about James Harden’s explosiveness and offensive brilliance, or possibly Dwight Howard’s athleticism, defensive prowess, or even his commercial reach (yes, it’s far easy to find Howard’s jerseys in Brazil than Harden’s for example) instead I opted for Motiejunas because I feel like I owe it to him.
When I was at the Toyota Center, watching the Rockets pound the Jazz, I kept listening to the comments of people sitting next to me to try and learn how the Houston fans perceived the game. After a great play by D-Mo I heard one of them saying “I tell you one thing, that is the Most Improved Player on this team”.
After the game, but more so after the season ended I pondered D-Mo’s remarkable improvements and started to reflect on it. Again I have to refer myself to my culture. In Brazil, soccer culture dominates, I mean, really dominates. Even if you don’t like soccer (and I do), you may still find yourself acting like a soccer fan. What drives us is the passion, so we think we are entitled to not respect referees and occasionally forget to view the players as people.
Next: My Initial Reaction To D-Mo