The Raptors are hoping to play next season in Toronto.
However, the Canadian government has a two-week quarantine policy for anyone “non-essential” coming into the nation. With coronavirus cases rising in Canada and spiking to record highs in its neighbor the United States, it seems highly unlikely that policy is changing anytime soon. That would force the Raptors to follow the lead of baseball’s Blue Jays and play somewhere in the United States next season.
That could be Tampa Bay, reports Michael Grange of SportsNet Canada.
In the meantime, the Tampa Bay area has emerged from several potential destinations as the most likely temporary home for Canada’s only NBA team should it come to that, according to both Raptors and NBA sources.
There are other cities in the mix, including Newark, but Tampa may win the race.
The Raptors are making a pitch to the Canadian government for a strategy that allows the team to play home games in Toronto, one that essentially puts visiting teams in a bubble while they are in Canada, according to the report. The Blue Jays made the same pitch, then played the MLB season in Buffalo, New York.
There is speculation around the NBA that, to help with the regional scheduling the league will heavily lean on next season to limit travel, the Washington Wizards would move into the NBA’s Atlantic Division with New York, Brooklyn, Boston, and Philadelphia. Then the Raptors in Tampa Bay would replace Washington in the Southeast Division with other Florida teams such as Miami and Orlando, as well as Atlanta and Charlotte. This would be a one-season change; when the Raptors return to Toronto for the 2021-22 season the divisions would return to normal. The NBA would still take the top eight teams in each conference for the playoffs.
With training camps opening Dec. 1, a decision will need to come soon for the Raptors next season, one way or another.