NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Breaks Silence on Knicks’ Lawsuit vs. Raptors

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

Getty NBA commissioner Adam Silver

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver spoke publicly for the first time on Wednesday about the ongoing legal battle between the New York Knicks and the Toronto Raptors involving a former employee who they claimed to have stolen proprietary information.

“On that dispute, I don’t know more than what I read in the complaint that was filed in federal court, and so I don’t have a sense yet of how egregious it is, and I haven’t had an opportunity to see what the Raptors response is,” Silver told reporters. “This ultimately may end up in front of me, so I think it’s appropriate to withhold judgment.”

On August 21, the Knicks filed a lawsuit naming Ikechukwu Azotam, their former director of video/analytics/player development assistant, along with new Raptors head coach Darko Rajaković, player development coach Noah Lewis and several unidentified members of the Raptors organization, referred to as John Does as the defendants.

Details of the Lawsuit

The Knicks alleged that Azotam secretly forwarded proprietary information from his Knicks email account to his personal Gmail account in late July after informing the team of the Raptors’ job offer.

According to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, Rajaković, a first-time head coach, and the other Raptors defendants “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 lawsuit also claims that the Raptors defendants have also 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.

On August 11, 2023, the Knicks alleged Azotam forwarded from his Knicks email account to his Raptors email account the scouting report for their final regular-season game against the Indiana Pacers and an advanced scouting report of the Denver Nuggets. He also forwarded several confidential documents to his personal Gmail account, such as the Knicks’ prep book for the 2022-23 season, and a play frequency report for the Dallas Mavericks shared with the Raptors defendants.

The Knicks claimed that their insider threat security team identified the theft on August 15, with records showing that the stolen files were accessed over 2,000 times by the Raptors defendants.

Raptors’ Response

On the same day the lawsuit was filed, the Raptors immediately issued a statement denying involvement in the Knicks’ allegations.

“MLSE and the Toronto Raptors received a letter from MSG on Thursday of last week bringing this complaint to our attention. MLSE responded promptly, making clear our intention to conduct an internal investigation and to fully cooperate,” the statement said via The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov.

“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 statement continued.

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