In Adrian Wojnarowski's new piece detailing how the Spurs landed LaMarcus Aldridge this summer, he shares a really fun anecdote about how Masai Ujiri was lurking as Aldridge and Gregg Popovich met up for lunch, and even received a ribbing from Pop on signing DeMarre Carroll away from the Hawks. From the article:
LaMarcus Aldridge walked out of the lobby doors of the Montage Beverly Hills in early July and found a familiar face in a most familiar repose: Gregg Popovich busting chops. In the hotel's valet lane, the emperor of the San Antonio Spurs playfully jabbed Toronto general manager Masai Ujiri for signing Atlanta's DeMarre Carroll to a $60 million free-agent contract. Spurs family is Spurs family, and Ujiri had punctured a protégé's program in Atlanta.
Sixteen million dollars a year, Popovich proclaimed with Aldridge approaching them. "Hey, Masai ought to pay you $35 million a year!"
"If he could, he would," Aldridge said with a laugh, a nod of respect toward the relentlessness of Ujiri's pursuit.
here was an inherit awkwardness to the moment, with Popovich and Aldridge understanding why Toronto's top executive lingered outside the hotel. From far behind, Toronto still chased the biggest available free agent on the market, the Raptors' general manager endearing himself to Aldridge, selling the starry free agent on a visit that would never materialize.
Nevertheless, Ujiri stepped aside now. His brief, spirited run was over, and he knew it.
More importantly, Aldridge was intrigued by Ujiri's vision:
Aldridge met with the Toronto Raptors, whose general manager, Masai Ujiri, had Aldridge enraptured. He found himself intrigued with Ujiri's vision of the entire country of Canada behind him, telling Yahoo, "There was a genuine spirit about [Ujiri] that made me more interested in Toronto."
Ujiri lurked in the halls of the Montage for the next 48 hours, carefully crafting text messages to Aldridge, trying desperately to get him on a plane and come visit the city. Ujiri imagined the rapper Drake, a Raptors fan, summoning other fervent fans, packing Jurassic Park outside the Air Canada Centre and somehow willing themselves to a free-agent upset of upsets.
So, let's pack Jurassic Park for Kevin Durant next year just for the hell of it.