Knicks seek over $10M in damages from Raptors

1 week ago 18
  • Baxter Holmes, ESPN Senior WriterNov 20, 2023, 04:54 PM ET


      Baxter Holmes (@Baxter) is simply a elder writer for ESPN Digital and Print, focusing connected the NBA. He has covered the Lakers, the Celtics and antecedently worked for The Boston Globe and Los Angeles Times.

In a tribunal filing Monday, the New York Knicks said they're seeking much than $10 cardinal successful damages from the Toronto Raptors arsenic part of a suit alleging the theft of thousands of confidential files, and argued that NBA commissioner Adam Silver shouldn't arbitrate the quality successful portion due to the fact that of his adjacent narration with Raptors politician Larry Tanenbaum.

The Knicks' filing, which was obtained by ESPN, came successful effect to the Raptors' Oct. 16 question to disregard the Knicks' archetypal complaint and person Silver arbitrate the dispute.

In Monday's filing, the Knicks besides argued that Tanenbaum's presumption arsenic the president of the NBA's committee of governors would make a struggle of interest, arsenic "Tanenbaum serves arsenic Silver's brag and exercises power implicit and heavy influences Silver's continued employment and salary." Further, the Knicks pointed to a relationship betwixt Silver and Tanenbaum.

"Among different things, Tanenbaum has been described arsenic 'a adjacent state of Commissioner Adam Silver,'" the Knicks wrote. "Silver himself described Tanenbaum arsenic 'not conscionable my brag arsenic the president of the committee of governors, but he's precise overmuch a relation exemplary successful my life.' If Silver were to preside implicit the instant dispute, helium would beryllium arbitrating a lawsuit for his brag and ally."

The Raptors declined comment.

Monday's filing marked the archetypal lawsuit of the Knicks describing imaginable monetary damages since they filed their archetypal ailment successful August successful the U.S. District Court successful Manhattan.

That ailment accused erstwhile Knicks worker Ikechukwu Azotam, who worked for the Knicks from 2020 to 2023, of sending the Raptors thousands of confidential files -- including play frequence reports, a prep publication for the 2022-23 season, video scouting files, absorption probe and much -- aft the squad began recruiting him to articulation their enactment successful summertime 2023.

The Knicks besides accused Azotam -- who worked for the Knicks arsenic an adjunct video coordinator, past arsenic a manager of video/analytics/player improvement adjunct -- of violating a confidentiality clause successful an employment statement and alleged that members of the Raptors "directed Azotam's actions and/or knowingly benefited from Azotam's wrongful acts."

Further, the Knicks alleged that the Raptors "conspired to usage Azotam's presumption arsenic a existent Knicks insider to funnel proprietary accusation to the Raptors to assistance them organize, plan, and operation the caller coaching and video operations staff," the suit states.

Raptors manager Darko Rajaković, subordinate improvement manager Noah Lewis and 10 "unknown" Raptors employees were besides listed arsenic defendants successful the Knicks' lawsuit.

During Raptors media time Oct. 2, Raptors president Masai Ujiri addressed the lawsuit, saying, "There has been 1 clip a squad has sued a squad successful the NBA. One time. Go figure."

In an Oct. 16 filing, the Raptors called the Knicks' suit "baseless" and a "public relations stunt" portion besides calling for Silver to arbitrate the dispute. The Raptors person made that petition aggregate times dating backmost to August.

In fact, astir 1 week aft the Knicks filed the archetypal complaint, the Raptors emailed NBA wide counsel Rick Buchanan asking for Silver to asseverate jurisdiction implicit the quality betwixt the teams, pursuant to bylaw "d" successful Article 24 of the NBA's constitution. That bylaw states that "The Commissioner shall person exclusive, full, complete, and last jurisdiction of immoderate quality involving 2 (2) oregon much Members of the Association."

But the Knicks - past and adjacent much forcefully successful Monday's filing -- person objected to Silver adjudicating the dispute. In a Sept. 9 email to ineligible counsel representing some teams, Buchanan stated that the league would abide by further proceedings successful the Southern District Court successful Manhattan "for a determination of whether this quality should beryllium adjudicated successful national tribunal oregon earlier [Silver]."

In different email connected Sept. 19, Buchanan repeated the league's stance to ineligible representatives from some teams.

In their filing Monday that opposed immoderate arbitration by Silver successful the matter, the Knicks said that the determination are nary provisions successful the NBA constitution that code the theft of intelligence spot oregon the extortion of a team's intelligence property.

"Contrary to Defendants' claims, this is not a quality astir hoops operations," the Knicks wrote. "There is nary nexus betwixt the claims and the NBA Constitution -- it is simply a quality astir the theft of commercialized secrets by a disloyal employee, a script not contemplated by the NBA Constitution. Trade concealed misappropriation, breaches of contract, and tort claims are the types of issues routinely appearing earlier national judges. We are unaware of the NBA Commissioner ever having handled thing similar. As a substance of declaration formation, the arbitration proviso cannot beryllium applied to Plaintiff's claims."

The Knicks besides constituent to the limits connected Silver's powerfulness for monetary penalties nether Article 24 of the NBA's constitution, which states that the commissioner cannot contented a punishment of much than $10 million. Further, the Knicks besides constituent retired that the league's constitution does not authorize Silver to grant ineligible fees successful disputes betwixt 2 teams.

"As the Knicks mean to beryllium astatine trial, damages transcend $10 million," the Knicks said successful Monday's filing, adding that they besides mean to question attorneys' fees.

An MSG spokesperson issued the pursuing connection to ESPN connected Monday: "We were the unfortunate of a theft of proprietary and confidential files, which is simply a wide usurpation of transgression and civilian law, and we stay assured that the Court volition determine successful our favour successful this matter."