Shortly after news broke this morning that the Canadian federal government had denied the Toronto Raptors’ request to play their 2020-21 home games in Toronto, team president Masai Ujiri confirmed that the team would start the season in Tampa, Florida in an official statement:
Tampa had been one of the frontrunners to be Toronto’s temporary home should Canada not be amenable to having the Raptors and their competition regularly cross the border.
It doesn’t seem like an ideal location — Tampa, obviously, is a long way from Toronto and from the team’s Atlantic Division competition (though there has been loose talk of temporarily having them swap division places with, say, the Wizards). Florida is also one of the worst COVID-19 hotspots in the world at the moment. However, Tampa does offer the benefit of warm winter weather, and proximity to many other NBA teams, including those in Florida and Texas.
We should also note that Ujiri made a point to say the Raptors would begin the season in Tampa; that doesn’t mean they’ll end it there. There is a natural in-season break coming in March, when the NBA will pause for a nominal All-Star break (with no actual All-Star game). The team could move to another location at that point, perhaps even Toronto if the COVID-19 situation is under better control.
The Raptors will presumably travel to the Tampa area on or before November 30, as that’s the point when teams are required to be in-market to begin testing and safety protocols.