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If they had it their way, the Toronto Raptors would be playing their home games in Canada next season.
But with the 2020-21 season set to kick off in about five weeks, and the COVID-19 pandemic still raging throughout the United States like never before, international travel restrictions will likely make that too difficult.
So, Raptors general manager Bobby Webster is looking to make a move — and fast.
“We want to stay in Toronto. But as we all know, time is of the essence,” Webster said Tuesday, via USA Today. “We’re also working on a path to play elsewhere.”
‘We don’t have a drop-dead date’
Raptors players are allowed to travel from Canada to the United States, however they — along with any other team in the league — would be forced to quarantine for 14 days upon return to Canada.
That, for obvious reasons, would make playing games at Scotiabank Arena essentially impossible.
The team has been in contact with the Canadian government about lifting restrictions for the team, though Webster told USA Today that he’s “not aware of any communications with the U.S. government” about similar adjustments.
The team has looked at several different cities in the United States to play the season this year, including Buffalo, New York, Kansas City, Missouri and in the New York area. Tampa, Florida, has also emerged as a favorite.
In order to lock down a location, Webster said, there are so many factors to consider — which makes the decision that much more difficult.
“What does the practice facility look like and the accommodations around the medical facilities and medical treatment?” Webster said, via USA Today. “You need to have an arena that fits NBA standards. There’s a ton of broadcast issues. There’s health and safety. There’s availability for arena dates. There’s a ton of stuff there. Lifestyle matters. We’re asking people to uproot their lives and go to a place that they may potentially be away from their families for six or seven months. So we want to be respectful of that and want people to feel like we’re going somewhere that is safe and can settle in.”
Regardless, Webster and the team will have to make a decision here soon. The season will start on Dec. 22, and preseason games will start on Dec. 11.
Webster said the team doesn’t have a “drop-dead date” where a decision has to be made by, but he did admit that “it’s getting close.”
While that can be daunting, it’s not permanent. There’s still hope the team could finish out the season back in Toronto.
“Our plan is whatever we do decide on, we want to go down there and get settled. We don’t want to have a trip back to Toronto,” Webster said, via USA Today. “But there’s going to be a natural break in the season. So there would be an opportunity to transition back [to Toronto].”
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