The Knicks are seeking more than $10million in damages from the Raptors as part of a lawsuit alleging the theft of thousands of confidential files from Canada’s only NBA team, and argued that commissioner Adam Silver should stay out of the dispute.
New York doesn’t want Silver, 61, to arbitrate in the legal battle between both teams due to his close relationship with Raptors governor Larry Tanenbaum, according to ESPN.
The Knicks’ filing comes a little over a month after the Raptors’ motion to dismiss their initial complaint, which was filed on October 16, the network reported. Toronto also asked Silver to get involved in the matter.
The Knicks argued in Monday’s filing that Tanenbaum’s position as the chairman of the NBA’s board of governors would be a conflict of interest, as ‘Tanenbaum serves as Silver’s boss and exercises control and heavily influencers Silver’s continued employment and salary.’
New York also pointed to the friendship between both NBA executives.
James Dolan, CEO of the Knicks, at an NBA game between Charlotte and New York on Nov. 12
Raptors owner Larry Tanenbaum is a close ally of NBA Commiss. Adam Silver, per the Knicks
‘Among other things, Tanenbaum has been described as ”a close ally of [Commiss.] Adam Silver,’ the Knicks wrote, according to ESPN.
‘Silver himself described Tanenbaum as ”not just my boss as the chairman of the board of governors, but he’s very much a role model in my life.” If Silver were to preside over the instant dispute, he would be arbitrating a case for his boss and ally.’
An MSG Spokesperson told DailyMail.com: ‘We were the victim of a theft of proprietary and confidential files, which is a clear violation of criminal and civil law, and we remain confident that the Court will decide in our favor in this matter.’
The Raptors have yet to comment on ESPN’s recent findings.
Monday’s filing also mentions the Knicks outlining possible monetary damages since their initial complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan in August.
The Knicks are accusing former employee Ikechukwu Azotam, who worked for the organization from 2020 to 2023, of sharing thousands of confidential files to the Raptors, according to ESPN.
These files include frequency reports, a prep book for the 2022-23 season, video scouting files, opposition research and more, and were all been sent over to Toronto after Azotam was hired this summer, the network further reported.
Ikechukwu Azotam has been named as the former Knicks employee sharing confidential files
The complaint also cites Azotam, who worked for the Knicks as an assistant video coordinator, then as a director of video/analytics/player development assistant, of breaching a confidentiality clause in an employment agreement.
New York further alleges that Raptors executives ‘directed Azotam’s action and/or knowingly benefited from Azotam’s wrongful acts.’
The Knicks are also claiming that the Raptors ‘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,’ filings of the lawsuit, obtained by ESPN, state.
The Knicks’ lawsuit lists Raptors coach Darko Rajaković, player development coach Noah Lewis and 10 ‘unknown’ other employees of the Canadian pro basketball team as defendants.
Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic is one of several defendants named by the Knicks’ lawsuit
Commenting on the lawsuit during the Raptors’ media day on October 2, Raptors president Masai Ujiri said: ‘There has been one time a team has sued a team in the NBA. One time. Go figure.’
In their motion filed on October 16, the Raptors called the Knicks’ lawsuit ‘baseless’ and a ‘public relations stunt’ while also asking for Silver’s to step in and arbitrate the dispute. The Raptors have asked for the NBA’s commissioner to get involved in the legal matter several times since August.
According to ESPN, the Raptors even emailed NBA general counsel Rick Buchanan, roughly a week after the Knicks filed their initial complaint in New York, requesting Silver’s arbitration over the dispute between the two teams, pursuant to bylaw ‘d’ in Article 24 of the NBA’s constitution.
That rules states: ‘The Commissioner shall have exclusive, full, complete, and final jurisdiction of any dispute involving two (2) or more Members of the Association.’
But the Knicks are objecting to Silver’s judicial involvement in the lawsuit, clarifying it even more in Monday’s filing.