The Houston Rockets Summer League team is loaded as far as young talent goes — Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas and Royce White for starters.
However, the two big draws for me coming out to Vegas were to see Motiejunas and White play live in person, and given that Motiejunas hasn’t been seen playing in scrimmages or against NBA action, he was the guy I was most curious to see play.
He didn’t disappoint.
Motiejunas scored 25 points on a sizzling 11-13 shooting and pulled down 9 rebounds in Houston’s 93-81 win over the Toronto Raptors summer squad Friday afternoon. See the full Donatas Motiejunas highlights below:
Before he scored a single point, I was very impressed with Motiejunas. He went for a rebound, trying to jump over a guy who clearly had boxed-out position, and I was struck by the energy and effort he showed on the play, not to mention his size, which has been a rare commodity in Houston for years now. Motiejunas looks every bit a legit seven feet, appears to be in great shape and has a very high energy level.
What you notice about Motiejunas is he busts it on every play, running down the floor and immediately working towards establishing a commanding position in the post. He looks comfortable there, like he owns that territory. I had heard since the day they drafted him last summer that the Rockets loved his post moves and that he is very comfortable shooting with both his left and right hands, and he showed that today.
One one play, Motiejunas received a pass and went strong to the basket, only to be fouled hard by Ed Davis. Moti landed flush on his rear/back and I thought this was a bit of a welcome to the physical side of the NBA, but it didn’t faze him. He popped right up like he was comfortable with that physical brand of basketball.
And he carries himself with a real swagger, which shows both on and off the floor. After the final horn sounded, I got over to where Motiejunas was and we got the chance to talk with him. Confidence is not in short supply.
“All of you in Houston know me as the guy who talks,” said Motiejunas. “Right now is the time to show that what I talk is not just talk.”
After the game, I spoke with a scout and asked him, “Were you impressed with Motiejunas today?” He didn’t even hesitate.
“I’ve been impressed with him for three years,” he said. “You just can’t put him in a box. And boy does he work.”
And he proceeded to simply rave about how hard the Lithuanian big man works, that he puts in the time and then some.
These are summer league games — a collection of rookies, sophomores and guys just trying to latch on with a team — so you have to temper expectations because we have yet to see how Donatas plays against NBA-caliber big men. I also think this first impression may have some believing that his skill level is higher than it really is, especially from three-point range (he was 2-2 today from deep). He’s not freakishly athletic nor is he a Dirk Nowitzki deadeye from downtown.
However, you can believe this, Houston — the Rockets finally have a young, mobile, hard-working and fundamentally strong seven-footer in Donatas Motiejunas.