The Toronto Raptors will be a long way from home when the 2020-21 NBA season tips off.
Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri announced Friday in a statement the team will play its home games in Tampa, Fla., to start the season. COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario and Canada have forced the Raptors to uproot themselves temporarily in order to compete against United States-based teams during 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, per The Athletic’s Blake Murphy. “Ultimately, the current public health situation facing Canadians, combined with the urgent need to determine where we will play means we will begin our 2020-21 season in Tampa, Fla.”
“… So we’ll be away from our home and our fans for now. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’m not sure that’s possible for us — we love Toronto and Canada, and we know we have the best fans in the NBA. For now, I’ll ask you to cheer for us from afar, and we’ll look forward to the day we are all together again.”
The NBA announced last week the season will begin Dec. 22. The league released the schedule for just the first half of the season, which will run until the March 5 NBA All-Star break. Murphy believes Toronto might be on the move again during that window.
Toronto’s move means the Boston Celtics probably will travel to Tampa either once or twice to face their Atlantic Division rival during the season, depending on the yet-to-be-determined schedule assignments.
However the season unfolds results-wise, it will be an unforgettable campaign for Canada’s only NBA team.