Toronto Raptors considering Tampa as temporary home due to COVID-19

The Toronto Raptors are considering Tampa as a possibility to be their “home” for the 2020-21 NBA season, according to multiple reports.

The Raptors are still hoping to play in Toronto but coronavirus regulations and Canadian travel restrictions may rule that out.

The Raptors reportedly have been discussing a plan to play games at Amalie Arena since late October.

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“Ideally, the Raptors are able to play their upcoming season in Toronto, but should that not be possible, we would have a strong interest in working to successfully meet and exceed their expectations as an alternative host,” said Rob Higgins, the executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission.

“We’ve enjoyed our preliminary conversations with their organisation and stand ready to assist if needed.”

The 72-game NBA season is slated to start on December 22 with training camps scheduled to open on December 1. That doesn’t leave the Raptors with a lot of time to sort out possibilities.

Other cities mentioned as a possible home are Buffalo, Kansas City, Louisville, Nashville and Newark, N.J. The Toronto Blue Jays used nearby Buffalo as their temporary home during the Major League Baseball season.

“We’re exploring options for our Plan B,” Raptors director of communications Jennifer Quinn told the Tampa Bay Tribune. “But our main focus is on playing next season in Toronto.”

Raptors president Masai Ujiri told the CBC that the overwhelming preference is for the team to play in Canada.

“We have many options, to be honest,” Ujiri said. “I think we’re lucky that the Raptors have become a darling, I think, hopefully, globally. We’re proud of that.

“Everybody wants us to come play. We are honoured, we are humbled and we are appreciative that everybody wants us to come play in their city, but honestly, our main goal is to stay home. We really want to stay home.”

The Raptors have made the playoffs in seven straight seasons and won the 2018-19 title when since-departed Kawhi Leonard was the star and guided the club past the Golden State Warriors in six games.

Amalie Arena is also home of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.

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