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The New York Knicks sued the Toronto Raptors on Monday (Tuesday, August 22, Manila time), leveling allegations that new Toronto head coach Darko Rajakovic recruited a former Knicks employee to relay proprietary information to the Raptors.
The Knicks accused former video staffer Ikechukwu Azotam of illegally taking “thousands” of proprietary files with him to the Raptors, who hired him this summer.
The lawsuit named 14 defendants, which include the Raptors and their parent company, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), along with Rajakovic, Azotam, Raptors player development coach Noah Lewis and 10 John Does.
“Defendant Rajakovic and the other Raptor Defendants recruited and used Azotam to serve as a mole within the Knicks organization to convey information that would assist the Raptors Defendants in trying to manage their team,” the lawsuit said.
The proprietary files allegedly include advanced scouting reports of other NBA teams.
The Knicks also claimed that Rajakovic and the other defendants had Azotam “funnel proprietary information to the Raptors” to help structure their coaching and video staff.
Toronto hired Rajakovic, a longtime NBA assistant coach who hails from Serbia, to his first head-coaching post in June.
The lawsuit painted Rajakovic as a “novice” head coach who stole files because “given his non-traditional path to his head coaching job, Defendant Rajakovic did not have his own” organizational structure and coaching method.
“Azotam also emailed his personal email address several documents containing additional proprietary Knicks information,” the lawsuit said.
“He provided this material to the Raptors Defendants at their request, including: a. the prep book for the 2022-23 season (that) includes confidential information related to the Knicks’ process for planning its season, including the template and organizational structure that the Knicks used to plan and assign scouting responsibilities.”
An MSG Sports spokesperson gave a written statement to multiple outlets saying the company had “no choice but to take this action.”
The Raptors said they were advised of the alleged breach ahead of time and were planning to cooperate with the Knicks.
“MLSE and the Toronto Raptors received a letter from MSG on Thursday of last week bringing this complaint to our attention,” MLSE said in a statement. “MLSE responded promptly, making clear our intention to conduct an internal investigation and to fully cooperate.”
“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.” – Rappler.com