Toronto Raptors to begin 2020-21 NBA season in Tampa

Eric Smith and Michael Grange discuss the news that the Raptors will open the season in Tampa, Florida and break down the implications it may have on the organization's ability to sign free agents.

The Toronto Raptors will begin the 2020-21 season in Tampa after being unable to secure permission to play in Canada, the team announced Friday.

The question of where the Raptors would call home in 2020-21 has loomed large over the team in recent weeks, with their ability to play at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto complicated by the closure of the Canada–U.S. border and the quarantine requirements for those who travel between the two countries.

As was the case with the Toronto Blue Jays, who were eventually forced to play their entire 2020 season in Buffalo due to these same issues, the Raptors will temporarily relocate to the U.S., at least for the beginning of the campaign.

“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. 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," Raptors president Masai Ujiri said, via a team statement.

"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."

Earlier this month, Health Minister Patty Hajdu told Sportsnet's Michael Grange that any plans for the resumption of professional sports in Canada would not take priority over the federal government's primary focus of mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada.

“The Government of Canada’s priority is to protect the health and safety of Canadians. The resumption of sports events in Canada must be undertaken in adherence to Canada’s plan to mitigate the importation and spread of COVID-19. Like other countries, Canada is working on plans for a measured resumption of sports, including both professional and amateur sporting events," Hajdu told Grange.

The agreed upon schedule for the NBA's 2020-21 season surely impacted the Raptors' decision-making in regards to starting the campaign in Tampa. Players are to report to team markets in just 10 days, with group practices beginning in two weeks, and pre-season games commencing in three weeks.

Grange reports the Raptors' training camp will be held at Saint Leo University, north of Tampa.

The 2020-21 regular season is scheduled to begin on Dec. 22.

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