The Toronto Raptors announced Friday that they will open the 2020-21 season by playing their home games in Tampa, Fla.
The Canadian federal government ruled Friday that the Raptors will not be able play home games at Scotiabank Arena due to COVID-19 concerns, the Toronto Star reported.
The Raptors reportedly have been discussing a plan to play games at Amalie Arena since late October as it became clear that coronavirus regulations and Canadian travel restrictions made playing an NBA season outside the United States unlikely.
Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri made those plans official on Friday.
“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. These conversations were productive, and we found strong support for the protocols we put forward,” Ujiri said in a statement. “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.
“We want to thank all levels of government and their public health officials for their dedication to this process, and for looking after the health of Canadians. We commit to continuing our work together, planning for a safe return to play in Toronto. And as an organization, we remain committed to doing all we can to promote and demonstrate public health measures to help combat the spread of COVID-19 in Canada.”
The 72-game NBA season is slated to start on Dec. 22, with training camps scheduled to open on Dec. 1. Other cities mentioned as possible temporary homes for the Raptors were Buffalo, Kansas City, Louisville, Nashville and Newark, N.J.
Raptors follow in Blue Jays’ path
Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays used nearby Buffalo as their temporary home last season. Major League Soccer franchises in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal also relocated to the U.S. during the season.
The Raptors have made the playoffs in seven straight seasons and won the 2018-19 title after since-departed Kawhi Leonard guided the club past the Golden State Warriors in six games.
Amalie Arena is also home of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
“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,” Ujiri said. “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.”
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)