The Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks have been rivals for years, but it appears they’re now heading for a battle in a different kind of court.
Sportsnet New York’s Ian Begley reported Monday afternoon that the Knicks have sued the Raptors and “several members of their organization, including a former Knicks employee, for taking proprietary information.”
A Madison Square Garden spokesperson alleged to SNY in a statement that the ex-employee, named in the lawsuit as Ikechukwu Azotam, “illegally took thousands of proprietary files with him to his new position.
“These files include confidential information such as play frequency reports, a prep book for the 2022-23 season, video scouting files and materials and more,” the statement said. “Given the clear violation of our employment agreement, criminal and civil law, we were left no choice but to take this action.”
The lawsuit alleged Azotam had previously signed an agreement with the Knicks containing a confidentiality clause “requiring him to maintain the secrecy of all confidential or proprietary Knicks information.”
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Toronto has significantly overhauled staffers throughout the organization this off-season, most notably installing Darko Rajakovic as its new head coach in mid-June. The lawsuit alleged Azotam was recruited to work for the Raptors that month. He had worked for the Knicks as a director of video/analytics/player development assistant from 2020-23. He previously worked for the Detroit Pistons.
Begley reported New York reached out to the NBA and the Raptors before filing the lawsuit.
The suit names Rajakovic, Raptors player development coach Noah Lewis, who joined the organization in 2021 and worked with Raptors 905 until being promoted in July, and 10 John Does.
The Knick’s lawsuit alleged that the defendants “directed Azotam to misuse his access to the Knicks’ subscription to Synergy Sports to create and then transfer to the Raptors defendants over 3,000 files consisting of film information and data.” It alleged that the Raptors “conspired to use Azotam’s position as a current Knicks insider to funnel proprietary information to the Raptors to help them organize, plan and structure the new coaching and video operations staff,” Begley reported.
The lawsuit alleged Azotam told the Knicks he had an offer to join the Raptors in July and then began “secretly forwarding proprietary information from his Knicks email account to his personal Gmail account, which he then shared with the Raptors defendants. These materials included scouting reports, play frequency reports, a prep book, and a link to third-party licensed software.”
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Raptors, said in a statement on Monday afternoon that it “received a letter from MSG on Thursday of last week, bringing this complaint to our attention.
“MLSE responded promptly, making clear our intention to conduct an internal investigation and to fully co-operate,” the statement said. “MLSE has not been advised that a lawsuit was being filed or has been filed following its correspondence with MSG. The company strongly denies any involvement in the matters alleged. MLSE and the Toronto Raptors will reserve further comment until this matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.”
Toronto’s first two playoff appearances came against the Knicks more than 20 years ago. Before that the franchises made a blockbuster trade involving Marcus Camby and Charles Oakley and later Knicks owner James Dolan nixed a deal that would have sent Kyle Lowry to New York, partly because of the widespread belief he had already been fleeced in two prior trades by Toronto boss Masai Ujiri (once while Ujiri was running the Denver Nuggets). The Knicks and Toronto Huskies also met in the first game by the NBA forerunner league the BAA in Toronto in 1946.