Rookie Coach Facing Knicks Theft Accusations Defends ‘Integrity’

The Knicks-Raptors lawsuit centers around accusation from James Dolan (left) about coach Darko Rajakovic.

Getty The Knicks-Raptors lawsuit centers around accusation from James Dolan (left) about coach Darko Rajakovic.

It is not often that an NBA coach takes his team up against an opponent that is not only game-planning how to beat him on the court, but how to beat him in the courtroom, as well. That was the case for Darko Rajakovic on Friday in New York, when his Toronto team played at MSG, against a backdrop of an ugly Knicks-Raptors lawsuit that is looming for the NBA.

Rajakovic was hired in June, after having been an assistant could with the Grizzlies last season. He had also coached with the Suns and Thunder after starting his career as a coach in his native Serbia. But when Rajakovic joined the Raptors this offseason, he is accused by New York owner James Dolan in the Knicks-Raptors lawsuit of having helped steal troves of information—including thousands of files—from the Knicks.

But Rajakovic answered questions on the topic with a shrug.

“Support from the beginning was just fine because we talked about it, we explained what happened or what did not happen. I know who I am, I know my integrity, I know who I represent,” Rajakovic said per the New York Post. “I represent one amazing organization and people in the front office and the players. I’m really looking forward for all of this to be solved and for everybody to find out the truth. I’ve got nothing to worry about.”

Darko Rajakovic Was Hired in June

The Knicks-Raptors lawsuit can be traced to the hiring by the Raptors of Knicks video assistant Ikechukwu Azotam, whom the Knicks accuse of illegally sending proprietary information to the Raptors on his way out the door. The Knicks are seeking $10 million in damages, and are doing so in court because the franchise is openly accusing commissioner Adam Silver of being partial to the Raptors because of his longtime relationship with Raptors owner Larry Tanenbaum.

The Knicks took the surprising step of naming Rajakovic as a defendant in the suit, accusing him of directing Azotam to take the files.

Rajakovic had addressed the issue on media day, but had not said much about the Knicks-Raptors lawsuit since. Back then, he seemed as unperturbed by the suit as he did on Friday before the game in New York.

“I know that there’s nothing that I should be worried about. And I cannot wait for this lawsuit to be over so everybody can find the truth,” Rajakovic said.

Knicks-Raptors Lawsuit a ‘Middle Finger’?

Around the NBA, the validity of the Knicks-Raptors lawsuit has drawn plenty of questions. While every organization handles its scouting materials and video libraries differently, every organization has their own. It could be of some value to have a peek into an opponents’ vault, but every team knows it is unlikely that there will be something new or radically different there.

And if the Raptors and Darko Rajakovic were determined to steal scouting material from another organization, why would they seek to do so from a team that has been to the postseason only six times in the last 23 years, and has not advanced past the second round since 2000?

Knicks owner James Dolan, though, has a long history of tension with Toronto and, as ESPN’s Baxter Holmes reported, one executive said, “”I think this is a complete middle finger from Dolan to Larry Tanenbaum — and I think it’s nothing more than that.”

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