Raptors president Masai Ujiri on Knicks lawsuit: 'Go figure'

TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors can't say much about their ongoing lawsuit with the New York Knicks, but team president Masai Ujiri didn't need many words to sum up his opinion of it.

Ujiri was incredulous when asked on Monday about the suit brought against the Raptors by their division rival in August. The Knicks allege that the Raptors have stolen team secrets including scouting and play frequency reports, along with a prep book and a link to valuable software.

"There has been one time a team has sued a team in the NBA," said Ujiri during a season-opening press conference at a downtown Toronto hotel. "One time. Go figure."

The Knicks filed suit against the Raptors, their new head coach Darko Rajakovic and former Knicks scouting employee Ikechukwu Azotam on Aug. 22, alleging the defendants conspired to steal thousands of videos and other scouting secrets in July and August.

"The lawsuit is ongoing," said Rajakovic in his segment of the news conference. "I know that on my part, there was no bad deeds or bad intentions.

"(Azotam) came to our organization highly recommended from various people in the NBA as a high character guy and I had a chance to see that as well."

The Knicks are seeking unspecified damages and a ban on the further spread of their trade secrets.

They claim that their intellectual property — scouting and play frequency reports, a prep book and a link to valuable software — has been downloaded thousands of times by Raptors employees.

The lawsuit identified Azotam as the alleged mole. Since August 2021 Azotam had directed the planning, organizing and distribution of all video scouting responsibilities for the Knicks' coaching staff.

The Knicks blamed Rajakovic, hired at Toronto's new head coach in June, along with player development coach Noah Lewis, the Raptors' parent company — Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd. — and 10 unidentified Raptors employees, saying that they received proprietary information and sometimes directed Azotam to misuse his access to Knicks information.

"I cannot comment what happened there and if (Azotam's) innocent or not but to my knowledge he is," said Rajakovic.

Rajakovic confirmed that Azotam is still employed by the Raptors.

— With files from The Associated Press.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 2, 2023.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press