It's Knicks Vs. Raptors —This Time Off the Court

NY team accuses Toronto of stealing trade secrets in new lawsuit
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2023 7:20 AM CDT
Knicks Accuse Raptors of Stealing Its Secrets
Toronto Raptors NBA basketball team new head coach Darko Rajakovic attends a media availability in Toronto on Tuesday, June 13, 2023.   (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

When the New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors next meet on the court in December, there will be hard feelings on at least one side. The Knicks sued the Raptors on Monday, claiming its Atlantic Division rival hired a "mole" within the Knicks organization, who stole thousands of team files and forwarded them to his new employer, per Reuters. Ikechukwu Azotam, who worked as a video, analytics, and player-development assistant for the Knicks, forwarded scouting files, opposition research, play frequency reports, and other "proprietary information," the lawsuit alleges, per ESPN. It claims Azotam violated a confidentiality clause in his contract, while the Raptors "directed Azotam's actions and/or knowingly benefited from Azotam's wrongful acts."

Azotam left the Knicks last week after announcing he'd received a job offer from the Raptors in late July, the Knicks said, per Reuters. But according to the suit, Azotam was recruited by the Raptors back in June, around the same time the Raptors hired head couch Darko Rajakovic, a former assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies. "As a first time NBA head coach, Defendant Rajakovic would be expected to bring his own organizational structure and coaching method," the suit reads, per Reuters. "Apparently, given his non-traditional path to his head coaching job, Defendant Rajakovic did not have his own, so he chose to exploit the Knicks' methods."

The Raptors' player development coach, Noah Lewis, is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, along with 10 other "unknown" employees, per ESPN. The Knicks team wants the court to block the Raptors from misusing the information gained. The team is also seeking unspecified damages. In a statement, owner of the Raptors, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, said it learned of the Knicks' complaint last week and responded, promising to "conduct an internal investigation and to fully cooperate." It added the lawsuit then came as a surprise, per ESPN. The company "strongly denies any involvement in the matters alleged" but "will reserve further comment until this matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties," MLSE said. (More New York Knicks stories.)

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