Raptors Respond To Knicks As Legal Battle Continues

While two Atlantic Division rivals competed on the court on Monday, their legal battle raged on off the court, with the Raptors responding to the claims made by the Knicks in a court filing last month, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

To recap the events to date, the Knicks filed a lawsuit against the Raptors in August, alleging that former employee Ikechukwu Azotam illegally took confidential files with him when he was hired by Toronto. The Raptors called the suit a “baseless” PR stunt and sought to have it dismissed, insisting that commissioner Adam Silver – rather than the courts – should arbitrate the dispute between two NBA teams.

In November, the Knicks responded by questioning Silver’s impartiality due to his friendship with Raptors governor Larry Tanenbaum and contending that the courts should handle the case because the Knicks are seeking more than $10MM in damages, which is the maximum amount the league can penalize a team.

[RELATED: Knicks’ Dolan Resigned From NBA Board Committee Positions]

In Monday’s filing, according to Holmes, the Raptors accused the Knicks of dragging out the case for publicity and – for the first time – raised the possibility of filing a countersuit against the Knicks for defamatory public statements once this case is resolved. The Raptors also challenged New York’s claim that Silver is biased, insisting again that the NBA commissioner arbitrate the dispute.

“The NBA Commissioner is not biased and he is the best person to adjudicate this dispute because of his ability to identify what, if any, information is confidential and proprietary such that its misuse may harm a Member like the Knicks,” the Raptors wrote. “The Knicks’ aversion to his jurisdiction is simply because they know they will not like his determination. Although it is inevitable the Knicks’ claims will fail on the merits in any forum, this proceeding permits the Knicks to keep their allegations in the public media, causing harm to the Named Defendants.”

As Holmes details, the Raptors have maintained throughout the legal process that the information Azotam took with him to his new position wasn’t confidential and that head coach Darko Rajakovic and the Raptors never saw any of the Knicks’ trade secrets.

“Coach Rajakovic — with nearly 15 years’ experience as a head coach overseas and in the NBA’s G-League and another decade as an assistant coach in the NBA — never needed, wanted, or saw a single piece of Knicks’ proprietary information,” the Raptors said. “Nor did Azotam ever share any proprietary Knicks information. The Knicks would have learned this if had they accepted the Raptors’ offer to cooperate in an investigation instead of immediately filing this suit.”

If the Knicks were “genuinely concerned” about misuse of proprietary information, the Raptors stated in their filing, they would have accepted Toronto’s invitation to cooperate in a thorough investigation of the allegations rather than having “mired themselves in lengthy judicial proceedings.” The Raptors also argued on Monday that the Knicks’ claims of having incurred $10MM+ in damages hasn’t been substantiated in any way.

“To the contrary,” the Raptors wrote, “the Knicks have offered the Court no theory or measurement of damages whatsoever — because they have not been harmed but appear to have made this claim to generate press attention.”

According to Holmes, an MSG spokesperson responded to the Raptors’ repeated insistence on referring the dispute to Silver for adjudication by stating, “Hopefully the Court will make it clear that Toronto cannot escape the consequence of breaking the law by being a member of the NBA.”

As Holmes writes, legal experts have referred to the standoff between the Knicks and Raptors as virtually unprecedented, making it difficult to predict the outcome, though many of those experts have been skeptical about New York’s chances of winning the case.

On the court, the Knicks defeated the Raptors on Monday for a second time this month, pulling out a 136-130 home victory.

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