One season removed from being named the NBA Champions, the Toronto Raptors will have a new challenge to contend with this upcoming season, courtesy of the Canadian federal government.
The Raptors released a statement penned by president Masai Ujiri on Friday, confirming the team’s upcoming absence from Toronto. It reads in part, “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 maintains that conversations were productive, but due to the public health crisis and the Raptors’ urgent need to find a home for the upcoming season, the decision was made to make Tampa their temporary home. As a result, the Raptors will be playing just over 80 miles down the road from the NBA bubble where they spent two playoff rounds this past summer before bowing out to the Boston Celtics in a seven-game series.
NBA teams and fans have poked fun at the Raptors’ slogan, “We the North,” for several years now, pointing out that the Trailblazers (Portland, OR) and Timberwolves (Minneapolis, MN) actually play their home games further north than Toronto. Of course, the defining point of the Raptors’ argument is that they play for and represent the entire country of Canada, but their new home is prompting some to suggest a new slogan.
While the location clearly makes sense for the Raptors for several reasons, it’s difficult to ignore the irony that the only team further south than Tampa is the Miami Heat. In that regard, an adjusted slogan might be warranted. With NBA training camp being less than two weeks away, Toronto was in a hurry to find a home in the US, so what’s most important right now is that they got that done.
It remains to be seen whether Toronto will have to play all 36 of their home games this season in the US or if they’ll be able to make the transition to Toronto at some point this winter. If the Raptors are looking for advice on how to settle in to a temporary home away from home, however, they can look no further than the MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays who were forced to play in the US this past season at the hands of the Canadian government.
Masai Ujiri said in his statement that the team will continue to work with public health authorities and the federal and provincial governments as they prioritize “planning for a safe return to play in Toronto.”
As of right now, the NBA has not released an official regular season schedule for any of its 30 teams, but the start date is tentatively set for December 22nd, 2020.