The National Basketball Association has just announced that the Toronto Raptors will start the 2020-21 season calling Tampa, and not Toronto, home. The Raptors team president Masai Ujiri released a statement Friday afternoon explaining that time simply ran out on efforts to work collaboratively with Canadian health officials in time for the start of the NBA season.
The team normally plays its home games at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, but will temporarily relocate to Tampa until additional details and protocols can be worked out with the Canadian government. The border between the United States and Canada is currently closed due to the pandemic.
“The Raptors worked diligently with public health officials at the local, provincial and federal level to secure a plan that would permit us to play our 2020-21 season on home soil and on our home court at Scotiabank Arena,” Ujiri said in a statement released by the team. “These conversations were productive, and we found strong support for the protocols we put forward. Ultimately, the current public health situation facing Canadians, combined with the urgent need to determine where we will play means that we will begin our 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida.”
Since the outbreak of coronavirus in early March, Florida has become the epicenter of professional basketball, with the NBA sealing off large swaths of Disney resorts to create the so-called “bubble” that hosted the final games of the league’s regular season. Orlando also hosted every NBA playoff game. The season ended on October 11th with the NBA Finals championship series between the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers and Florida’s own Miami Heat.
The Toronto Raptors played a number of games in Orlando’s “NBA bubble” this summer, but exited in the first round of the playoffs after losing a seven game series to the Boston Celtics.
Because of the late finish to the previous season, the NBA postponed the kickoff of the 2020-2021 regular season until December 22nd. Players are expected to report to their respective team’s training camp later this month.