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Knicks sue Raptors, allege former employee gave them confidential info

Nic Antaya / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The New York Knicks filed a lawsuit Monday against the Toronto Raptors, alleging that an ex-employee of the Knicks disclosed proprietary information to Toronto after being hired by the latter earlier this offseason, according to Ian Begley of SNY.

The Knicks' lawsuit, which also names several members of the Raptors organization as defendants, says Ikechukwu Azotam "illegally procured" and provided Toronto personnel with "thousands of proprietary files," including new head coach Darko Rajakovic and other members of his coaching staff. Those files allegedly included play frequency reports and a preparation book for the 2022-23 season, as well as video scouting files.

In addition, the Raptors allegedly "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." The Knicks argue Azotam violated his employment agreement with them, as it apparently contained a confidentiality clause aimed at protecting information owned by the organization.

The Raptors' ownership group, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, released a joint statement with the basketball club.

"MLSE and the Toronto Raptors received a letter from MSG on Thursday of last week bringing this complaint to our attention," the two parties said in a statement obtained by The Athletic's Mike Vorkunov. "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."

Azotam's current role with Toronto is unclear; he is not listed on the organization's staff directory. He was allegedly recruited to join the franchise sometime around June. New York first hired Azotam in November 2020 as an assistant video coordinator.

The Knicks reached out to both the Raptors and the NBA before filing the lawsuit, a source told Begley. However, the team ultimately opted to sue its Atlantic Division rivals "given the clear violation of our employment agreement (and) criminal and civil law," a spokesperson for MSG Sports said.

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