Donatas Motiejunas’ first coach in Lithuania never minced words with his young players about the discipline required to have success or the long odds against attaining it.

“He said ‘From all of you, all the players, if it comes out with one good player, I will be blessed,’ ” Motiejunas recalled. “And every time he talked like that, I knew it was going to be me. I just knew it, and I knew I would give everything to reach this.”

While Motiejunas remains a work in progress, he will take a significant step along that path toward success with his first NBA career start Wednesday against the Bucks at Toyota Center.

It was not an elevation accompanied by great fanfare. Rockets coach Kevin McHale, in fact, left it to the media gaggle Tuesday to inform Motiejunas, the 7-footer acquired from the Timberwolves on draft day in 2011, that he would start at power forward against Milwaukee.

Motiejunas took the news in stride, in keeping with his nose-to-the-grindstone approach toward life in the NBA. That’s not to say, though, that it won’t be a significant moment or that he takes the news, as one bystander suggested, in a businesslike fashion.

“It’s not a business approach,” he said. “It’s more of the approach that I try to show how much the will and hard work can take any player. … I don’t try to put it up like a special thing, I try to go and play my game. That’s all I need to do: Go hustle, try to help the team win, hope for the best.”

Motiejunas moves into the starting spot held since the trade of Patrick Patterson to the Sacramento Kings by veteran Carlos Delfino. It will be his first foray into an NBA starting lineup after just 21 games, but he can call on years as a starter on the international level as well as his stints in the NBA’s Summer League and Developmental League.


“When you start from the bench, you can be more relaxed,” he said. “When you’re a starter, you have to be more focused. I know how to play from a starting position. It takes more concentration, that’s for sure.”

The Rockets will press him into that role as they continue revamping their rotation in the wake of trading Patterson, backup center Cole Aldrich and backup guard Toney Douglas to the Kings, and forward Marcus Morris to the Suns.