Toronto Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic reacts during an NBA...

Toronto Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic reacts during an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. Credit: AP/Chris Young

TORONTO — Friday night was the first time this season that the Knicks and Raptors have met on the court. In the courts, though, that’s another matter.

The two franchises have been embroiled in an ugly legal fight that began with Ike Azotam, who had served as the Knicks' video coordinator,  being hired by newly named Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic  shortly after last season ended. The Knicks charged that Azotam conspired with the Raptors to steal proprietary scouting resources.

The Raptors filed a motion to dismiss the suit and have the NBA settle the matter, but that proved to only escalate the animosity. The Knicks countered by saying it can’t be settled by the league because of the close relationship between NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the president of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Larry Tanenbaum.

Asked if the suit brought any extra intensity to the game on the court,  Rajakovic said, “Tonight is going to be a great game. Two good teams are going to compete against each other and basketball is always the first plan.”

The Knicks are seeking more than $10 million in compensation and the final decision is far off, so for now, the fight is just on the court. Rajakovic said his arrival with this issue hanging over him has not been a problem because the franchise has supported him.

“Support from the beginning was just fine because we talked about it,” he said. “We explained what happened or what did not happen. I know who I am, I know my integrity. I know who I represent. 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. I’m looking forward to the end of this.”

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