The Toronto Raptors will not be able to play on their home court when the 2020-21 season begins next month. On Friday, the team announced they would start the upcoming season in Tampa, Florida. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Raptors were denied playing their games at Scotiabank Arena in Canada.
"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," Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said in a statement. "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."
Ujiri went on 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." He also ended the statement with a message to the fans.
"They say absence makes the heart grow fonder," Ujiri stated. "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. 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." According to Raptors reporter Josh Lewenberg, the team considered other options for temporary homes, but Tampa was the top choice for the players. It's not clear which arena in Tampa the Raptors will have their home games, but the Tampa Bay Lightning home, Amalie Arena, is the most likely option.
The Raptors are looking to have a bounce-back season after an early exit in the playoffs. They lost to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals after posting a 53-19 record. In 2019, the team made history as they defeated the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals to win their first franchise history title. Sports Illustrated released its early power rankings for the 2020-21 season, and the Raptors are ranked 12th.