NEW ORLEANS — A New Orleans Pelicans player has entered the final stages of arbitration with his former team.
Donatas Motiejunas, an NBA player, has announced that the results of of his contract dispute with his former employer, the Houston Rockets, will soon be resolved, according to an report by SportingNews.com.
Motiejunas spent the 2016 season as an unassigned free agent for the Rockets until the Brooklyn Nets made him a four-year, $37 million offer. The Rockets countered with a $31 million offer with fewer incentives.
After several rounds of negotiations, Motiejunas finalized a deal that was closer to $35 million over four years. However, a rift between the player and the Rockets organization soon emerged.
The Rockets pulled their offer after Motiejunas failed to show up for a physical examination. With that deal off the table, he became an unrestricted free agent.
In January, he signed a $1.5 million contract with the New Orleans Pelicans for 34 games. He then became an unrestricted free agent again.
Motiejunas is blaming the Rockets for his continued status as a free agent and is claiming that the organization's treatment has cost him millions of dollars. As of May 12, the dispute was still in arbitration, but a result is expected soon.
According to David Fleshman, an attorney at Roedel, Parsons, Koch, Blache, Balhoff and McCollister, NBA contract negations can be unusually difficult because there is a requirement to utilize the collective bargaining agreement’s (CBA) procedure for grievances and arbitration to resolve disputes.
"While arbitration or alternative dispute resolution provisions are not unique to professional sports agreements, they do present challenges and can keep these matters from being decided by the courts," Fleshman told the Louisiana Record. "Another challenge is that these types of contract disputes often come with a lot of publicity and public scrutiny as appears to be the case with Motiejunas."
Fleshman said NBA contract disputes are unique because they are standardized as part of the CBA between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association.
"In addition to the terms of the contract, the CBA also governs the rights and actions of teams and players," Fleshman said. "Also, while these contracts are between the individual player and the team, the contract includes significant input, oversight and involvement of the league and the players association in many instances."
He said Motiejunas's complaint will likely have a number of challenges before he can meet his goals.
"It is very likely going to be an uphill battle," Fleshman said. "But that does not mean that his complaint does not have any merit to it."
Fleshman said that because of the stipulations that are specific to NBA contract disputes, they almost never end up in court.
"Pursuant to the player contract and CBA, all disputes between a player and team over 'any matter arising under' the player contract, or 'concerning the performance or interpretation thereof' are required to be resolved in accordance with the grievance and arbitration procedure set forth in the CBA," Fleshman said. "As a result, these type of disputes are typically resolved through arbitration, not traditional litigation in courts."