Sean Pendergast

Donatas Motiejunas Is Done for the Season With Back Injury

Through the first three weeks of the NBA season, Donatas Motiejunas was floundering. Through 12 games, he was shooting below 37 percent and knocking down three pointers at a frigid 17.6 percent clip. It was being openly debated if he was the least effective rotation player in the league.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Motiejunas found himself. He found his shooting stroke, became suddenly comfortable making low post moves, and even found a go-to move, a hook shot that was one of the most, if not the most, converted hook shots in the league.

And by the time he was being put on the shelf two weeks ago with a back injury, you could say that D-Mo belonged to an exclusive marksman club:

And now Motiejunas has one more thing in common with Kevin Durant -- he is done for the rest of the regular season and the postseason, his back showing no signs of healing, as first reported by Sam Amick of USA TODAY. The team is still determining whether or not Motiejunas will need surgery.

Over the last few months, Motiejunas had evolved from reliable rotation player to a guy who kept them afloat in the frontcourt in the absence of Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones. However, he has missed the last seven games with the back injury, and resting it has not helped.

Rockets head coach Kevin McHale was understandably despondent over the news. "He put a lot of hard work in. It's too bad. I feel bad for him," said McHale. "He is one of those guys that never misses a day. On off days, he's in shooting. He really works hard. I know he'll miss playing. The kid loves to play basketball."

Motiejunas would've provided an outstanding option to help spread the floor with Dwight Howard in the game, or provide spot minutes at the five in smaller lineups. Now, his absence likely means either extended minutes in the postseason for Howard and Jones, two guys who have dealt with knee injuries at various times this season, or actual real minutes for Joey Dorsey, which is a pending disaster against good teams who are willing to foul him and send Dorsey (and his 20-something percent free throw percentage) to the line.

The Motiejunas news is just the latest in what's been a litany of bad injury news, as this follows the season-ending wrist injury to point guard Patrick Beverley.

Motiejunas, 24, averaged 12 points and 5.9 rebounds in 71 games. He is heading into the final year of his rookie contract in 2015-2016.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast