The Toronto Raptors have announced that they will play the remainder of their 2020-21 home games in Tampa, rather than move to another home base for the second half of the season.
Because of ongoing border restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and mindful of public safety measures in Canada, the team has decided they will continue to play their home games in Tampa for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 11, 2021
Details: https://t.co/3n6yp5tjjB pic.twitter.com/gs6kyWDqmu
The news isn’t surprising — I think we all expected it, as it’s the only move that really makes sense — but it still is disappointing to hear it.
This means that Kyle Lowry (2021 free agent), and potentially Norman Powell (2021 player option), may not play another game for the Raptors in front of fans in Toronto. And man, does that stink.
Naturally, the ongoing pandemic, and its resultant border restrictions, are to blame. (Well, really, our societal/governmental response to the pandemic is to blame, but that’s a discussion for another day!) It doesn’t seem like the U.S.-Canada border restrictions will be easing up any time soon — rightly so! — and thus staying in the United States is a necessity.
The Raptors are 6-5 in Tampa’s Amalie Arena this season.
“Home is where the heart is, and our hearts are in Toronto,” Masai Ujiri says in the above statement, and it’s a lovely sentiment. But it doesn’t erase how much this sucks. The Raptors are the only team to have to play outside of their home market; that’s an entire (truncated, yes, but still) season in temporary accommodations. I think it’s fair to say that the situation can be partially blamed for the team’s lacklustre start to the season, and although they seem to be settling in, it doesn't make it any easer.
As fans, all we can do is support our guys from afar and keep sending out those positive vibes! Will they reach all the way to Florida? It might take a while... but hey, maybe they’ll arrive just in time for the playoffs?
The NBA expects to announce the full schedule for the second half of the season in the coming days.