NBA 2020-21: The Toronto Raptors announced Thursday that they will finish the 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida. 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 at Amalie Arena.
“Florida has been really welcoming to us and we’re so grateful for the hospitality we’ve found in Tampa and at Amalie — we’re living in a city of champions, and we intend to carry on the tradition of winning for our new friends and fans here,” Raptors President Masai Ujiri said. “But home is where the heart is, and our hearts are in Toronto. We think often of our fans, of our Scotiabank Arena family, and all those we are missing back home, and we can’t wait until we can all be together again.”
The Raptors initially announced in November that Amalie Arena, in downtown Tampa, would serve as their home court for the first half of the 2020-21 season. A scheduled release for the second half of the season is expected in the coming days.
Toronto Raptors will play without fans
The Toronto Raptors won’t have fans at home games in Tampa, Florida, until at least Feb. 5. Vinik Sports Group, which owns the Tampa Bay Lightning and Amalie Arena, announced Saturday the organization wouldn’t admit fans because coronavirus cases in the area have “risen sharply.”
Florida reported nearly 20,000 new cases on Friday as the pandemic surges there. The state has recorded more than 1.4 million cases since the pandemic began.
“We are not comfortable bringing large numbers of fans indoors to watch hockey or basketball right now,” said Steve Griggs, CEO for Vinik Sports Group and the Lightning. “We are hopeful to reopen the arena soon after we see declining rates and better overall numbers.”
The Raptors were one of about a half dozen NBA teams to permit a limited number of fans at home games, with 3,800 tickets available for each game.
Because of Canada’s border restrictions and rising COVID-19 cases, the Raptors were forced to play their home games out of Tampa for at least the first half of the season.
Toronto Raptors were denied from playing in Toronto
There were a lot of discussions about where the 2018-19 NBA Champions Toronto Raptors play next season. Having played in the Scotiabank Arena since 1999, the Raptors will play the new NBA season in Tampa, Florida.
The news was confirmed by a statement released by Toronto Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri. This will help minimize travel during the pandemic.
This decision was made after the Canadian government refused to allow the Raptors to host games in the Scotiabank Arena, Toronto. The decision was taken after the rising amount of Covid-19 cases.
The Toronto Raptors (Tampa) will join the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, and the Orlando Magic in the Southeast Division.
The Raptors will most likely play in Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa where the Lightning play, according to Keith Smith. That venue has also hosted NCAA Tournament games several times.
Statement by Toronto Raptors’ president, Masai Ujiri –
Canada has had restrictions in place regarding who can enter the country and for what purposes. A similar decision was handed down before the start of the 2020 MLB season, which resulted in the Toronto Blue Jays playing their home games in Buffalo, New York.
The NBA 2020-21 season starts on the 22nd of December.
Below is the tentative schedule calendar for the 2020-21 season:
• Dec. 11-19, 2020: Preseason games
• Dec. 22, 2020 – March 4, 2021: First Half of regular season
• March 5-10, 2021: All-Star break
• March 11 – May 16, 2021: Second Half of regular season
• May 18-21, 2021: Play-In Tournament
• May 22 – July 22, 2021: 2021 NBA Playoffs