The timeline to the 2020-21 NBA season appears to be taking shape today, as The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports that teams must return to market for COVID-19 testing and individual workouts by November 30.
After negative PCR tests, they can then begin group practices within a week of return.
NBA teams will be able to begin group practices on Dec. 4 or 6, depending on arrival track of players. https://t.co/OfIpvshX6J— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 17, 2020
Dialling this into the Raptors, the obvious question that comes with this news is: which market?
Toronto has yet to get approval from the Canadian government to practice and play home games north of the border, despite some feverish marketing from team president Masai Ujiri — which included bylining a column in the Toronto Star.
"We have to look out for everyone’s health — I am committed to that and that is what we are doing."— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 14, 2020
Toronto is ‘where we want to be’
By Masai » https://t.co/A2WVXk5PoH pic.twitter.com/6huwiKZ8pv
We’ve already heard that the team will want to assemble, practice, and play in one city — so this forces a deadline of 13 days from now to either get approval from the federal, provincial, and municipal governments, or start making a home elsewhere. Previous reporting suggests Tampa, Fla. has the inside track.
Removing this news from the context of present-day North America is impossible too. Case numbers are spiking in areas of Ontario where the Raptors would practice and play. Look south, and the situation is even worse — the NBA continues to go full steam ahead on a non-bubble season as the pandemic spreads like wildfire in a majority of its market cities. If this was a question of the Raptors’ safety? It almost seems like playing in Toronto is the best alternative.
Of course, though, there are the optics. Shutting down local businesses while inviting in American professional athletes will never play well with a certain audience, so the multiple levels of government will ultimately have that at play with any decision. There is a lot to consider, but at least we know the timeline in which those decisions have to be made.