Motiejunas to get first start as a Rocket
Donatas Motiejunas has been waiting a long time for this.
When the Rockets host the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night, Motiejunas will make his first career start, head coach Kevin McHale told reporters on Tuesday after practice.
Carlos Delfino, who has started the last several games, will once again be coming off the bench for the Rockets.
“I feel a lot of respect from coach and I respect him a lot for that,” Motiejunas said. “I appreciate him for giving me a chance.”
D-Mo, as he’s known, hadn’t even talked to McHale about starting. Instead, McHale told reporters, who then told Motiejunas.
Recently traded Patrick Patterson was the usual starter at the four spot for the Rockets but he’s in Sacramento now. And newcomers Thomas Robinson and Francisco Garcia are still learning how the Rockets play after two practices. Even though McHale said both new guys would play.
But Motiejunas slowly earned playing time. So far this season has been filled with assignments and call-ups between the D-League and the Rockets. Most recently, he was sent down to the Rio Grande Vipers in mid-January before being called up again on Jan. 28.
“I was waiting for my chance,” he said. “I was working my ass off. And that’s how it was all my life. And that’s why I’m here.”
Motiejunas, the 22-year-old, who was the 20th pick in last year’s draft, played a season-high 23 minutes on Saturday and scored 11 points to go with six rebounds.
“Got a lot stronger,” McHale said of Motiejunas. “He’s gotten better. He’s really been diligent and he’s been patient. I know he really wanted to play earlier. In fact, he’s one of the few guys who said put me down in the D-League, I want to play more. He just keeps working hard and he’s going to get his chance.”
Robinson, who the Rockets acquired in a trade with the Kings last week, will play on Wednesday but McHale said Robinson will play. Robinson was the fifth overall draft choice by the Kings out of Kansas in the last draft.
The Timberwolves drafted Motiejunas with the 20th pick in 2011 but was traded shortly after. He spent the 2011 season overseas before coming to the states to play this season. Wednesday will be his first NBA start but he doesn’t plan on it being his last.
“I will never stop working,” he said. “I’m trying to improve as much as I can.”