Noah Lewis

Raptors Seek To Have Knicks’ “Baseless” Lawsuit Dismissed

The Raptors have filed a motion in New York to dismiss the Knickslawsuit, which alleges that former employee Ikechukwu Azotam “illegally took thousands of proprietary files with him to his new position” with Toronto, according to Mike Vorkunov, Eric Koreen and Fred Katz of The Athletic.

In the motion to dismiss, Toronto called the lawsuit “baseless” and “a public relations stunt by the Knicks,” per The Athletic.

Azotam, head coach Darko Rajakovic, development coach Noah Lewis and are among several defendants in the lawsuit.

As the Knicks surely expected and presumably intended, the filing of this lawsuit — virtually unprecedented between two members of the NBA or, frankly, two teams in any North American professional sports league — generated significant publicity,” the motion to dismiss states. “The effect of such a public accusation of wrongdoing in federal court was to tarnish the stellar reputations of Messrs. Rajaković, Lewis and Azotam, as well as MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the Raptors’ parent company), and to chill present and future Knicks’ employees from their pursuit of employment with other members.”

To support the claim that the Knicks were seeking publicity rather than something legitimate, the Raptors put out a timeline of events in their filing, The Athletic’s trio writes. On August 18, a day after the Knicks told the Raptors about the allegations, Toronto said it had no interest in the “proprietary” data that Azotam took and would cooperate with New York. The Knicks filed the lawsuit the next business day, August 21.

The Knicks alleged that Rajakovic “recruited and used” Azotam as a “mole.” However, the Raptors’ filing says those allegations are “false and overblown” and that the data was not confidential, but rather “publicly available information.”

These were not the Knicks’ team and player statistics, play frequency data, player tendencies or play calls, but rather those of other NBA teams — including particularly the Raptors’ own game film — compiled from video of their games accessible to all NBA teams (and, indeed, the general public). In other words, they were far from confidential, let alone trade secrets. The Knicks surely know this,” the motion states, according to ESPN’s Baxter Holmes.

As we have previously stated, given the theft of proprietary and confidential files and clear violation of criminal and civil law, we were left no choice but to take this to federal court and are confident the judicial system will agree,” a Knicks spokesperson said in reply to the filing.

According to Holmes, the Raptors believe that the dispute should be handled by commissioner Adam Silver instead of a federal judge, pursuant to a bylaw in the NBA’s constitution that reads, “The Commissioner shall have exclusive, full, complete, and final jurisdiction of any dispute involving two (2) or more Members of the Association.”

Obviously the Knicks disagreed, arguing the NBA doesn’t have “exclusive authority over criminal matters.” NBA general counsel Rich Buchanan later told the two teams that the league would abide by the judge’s decision on if the lawsuit should be decided by the NBA or the court.

Raptors Respond To Lawsuit; Knicks Allege Former Employee Was ‘Mole’

The Raptors and the team’s parent company, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, expressed surprise that the Knicks filed a lawsuit against them regarding alleged proprietary violations and issued a denial that the company was involved, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets via a Raptors press release.

The Knicks filed the lawsuit on Monday alleging that former employee Ikechukwu Azotam “illegally took thousands of proprietary files with him to his new position” with the Raptors. Azotam, who was hired away by Toronto this offseason, allegedly shared the proprietary information with “several members” of the team, including head coach Darko Rajakovic and player development coach Noah Lewis.

“MLSE and the Toronto Raptors received a letter from MSG on Thursday of last week bringing this complaint to our attention,” Toronto’s response reads. “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.”

The Knicks allege that not only did Rajakovic know what was occurring but that he “recruited and used” Azotam to help him build out the operations for his coaching staff, according to The Athletic’s Fred Katz, Mike Vornukov and Eric Koreen.

The lawsuit alleges that the information Azotam forwarded to the Raptors included scouting reports, play frequency reports, a prep book, and a link to third-party licensed software. It also alleges that “Defendant Rajaković 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 Athletic trio received a written statement from an MSG Sports spokesperson which stated that “we were left no choice but to take this action.”

Knicks File Lawsuit Against Raptors, Former NYK Employee

The Knicks filed a lawsuit on Monday alleging that former employee Ikechukwu Azotam “illegally took thousands of proprietary files with him to his new position” with the Raptors, which he then shared with his new club, reports Ian Begley of (Twitter thread).

Azotam, who was hired away by Toronto this offseason, allegedly shared the proprietary information with “several members” of the team, including head coach Darko Rajakovic and player development coach Noah Lewis, Begley adds.

The lawsuit alleges Azotam signed a confidentiality agreement with the Knicks which required him “to maintain the secrecy of all confidential or proprietary Knicks information.” A source tells Begley the Knicks contacted both the Raptors and the NBA prior to filing the lawsuit in the Southern District of New York.

According to Begley, the lawsuit also alleges that the Raptors “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.”

A Madision Square Garden Sports spokesperson released a statement to Begley regarding the lawsuit (Twitter thread).

The New York Knicks have sued the Toronto Raptors and several members of their organization, including a former Knicks employee, after the former employee illegally took thousands of proprietary files with him to his new position with the Toronto Raptors. 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.

“Given the clear violation of our employment agreement, criminal and civil law, we were left no choice but to take this action.”

[UPDATE: Raptors Respond To Lawsuit]

In addition to Azotam, Rajakovic, and Lewis, 10 other Raptors employees are also accused of wrongdoing, tweets Steve Popper of Newsday. Those employees are currently unknown — they’re listed as John Does “1” through “10.”

Raptors Announce Darko Rajakovic’s 2023/24 Coaching Staff

The Raptors will have a new head coach and a new-look coaching staff for the 2023/24 NBA season. After parting ways with Nick Nurse in April and hiring Darko Rajakovic in June, the team issued a press release on Tuesday announcing what Rajakovic’s staff will look like.

“This coaching staff reflects the team we want to see on the court – high character, high energy, and high creativity,” Rajakovic said in a statement. “We’ve already begun the work we know needs to be done as we head into our first season in Toronto together. We’re excited by the talent, by our team’s potential, and by the job ahead.”

Here are the Raptors’ assistants under Rajakovic for ’23/24, including several names that were previously reported:

Front of the bench:

  • Pat Delany, an experienced NBA assistant who has worked for Charlotte, Orlando, and – most recently – the Wizards.
  • Jama Mahlalela, who is returning to Toronto after spending eight seasons with the Raptors from 2013-21 (six as an assistant and two as the Raptors 905 head coach). He was an assistant with the Warriors from 2021-23.
  • James Wade, who has spent the last five seasons in the WNBA as the general manager and head coach of the Chicago Sky. He was previously an assistant under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio from 2012-16.

Second row:

  • Mike Batiste, a former assistant with the Hornets, the Magic, and – this past season – the Rockets. He has also held player development roles with the Nets and Wizards.
  • Vin Bhavnani, a longtime member of the Thunder organization who was an assistant coach for the last four seasons after serving as the manager of advance scouting/player development for five years.
  • Drew Jones, who was most recently a Pistons assistant from 2021-23.
  • Jim Sann, who has been with the Raptors as an assistant coach since 2016/17, serving under both Dwane Casey and Nurse.
  • Ivo Simovic, an experienced assistant at the NCAA level. He was on UCLA’s staff last season.

The Raptors have also hired Noah Lewis and Rashaun Broadus as assistant video coordinators/player development coaches, per today’s announcement.