They will still wear the same jerseys and those jerseys will still say “Toronto” on the front, but the Raptors will be starting the season far from home.
To be more precise, the Raptors will tip off in Tampa, Fla. How long they stay there is anyone’s guess.
“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,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a statement. “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 Raptors’ original hope was to start the 2020-21 season at their usual home at Scotiabank Arena, but those plans was shot down by Canada’s federal government on Friday, per the Toronto Star.
So the Raptors had to move fast, as training camp starts Dec. 1, less than two weeks away.
“We’re trying to do what’s best for the organization,” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster told reporters earlier this week. “So you can kind of go down the line. You know, what is first and foremost? The players. What does the practice facility look like? What would be the accommodations around the medical facilities, the medical treatment? Obviously you need to have an arena that fits NBA standards. There’s a ton of broadcast issues. There’s health and safety. There’s availability for arena dates. There’s a ton of stuff there.”
The Raptors won the NBA title in 2019 and contended again last season but were bounded by the Celtics in the conference semifinals. Tampa has never had an NBA team, so hey, not all of this is a bad thing. Toronto may not like it for now, but even Toronto’s frustration can be only temporary.