The 2020-21 NBA season seems like it is going to occur in home markets — we say “seems” because it’s awfully hard to predict anything with any certainty this year. If this ends up being the case, the Toronto Raptors are in a bit of a tricky situation. As we saw with the Toronto Blue Jays, the Canadian government has some reservations about having teams go in and out of the United States as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads like wildfire throughout the nation.
The Blue Jays ended up playing their home games in their Minor League affiliate’s stadium in Buffalo. The Raptors, of course, don’t have that luxury — beyond the fact that the minor league system is hardly as robust in the NBA, Toronto’s G League team plays elsewhere in Ontario. Plenty of potential alternate homes have been kicked around, but in an open letter published in the Toronto Star, Raptors president Masai Ujiri made clear that the team’s intention is to work with the Canadian government to play their games at Scotiabank Arena.
“We have to look at other options, because the pre-season is coming up fast — Dec. 1,” Ujiri wrote. “We are proud to represent our city and our country, and we hope to be able to do that while playing in Toronto. Cities in the United States have been very kind to us — they’ve offered us a home away from home. To them I say: Thank you. To you, I say that I hope we get to tell them we won’t be able to take them up on their generous offer.”
Ujiri went on to look back on the team’s stay in the NBA’s Orlando Bubble, which featured the franchise doing everything it could to make it feel like the team was back up north. The point of it all was hammer homer something that he, along with the rest of the team, views as important.
In the NBA bubble, our team spent a lot of time thinking about how we could make a hotel floor feel more like home for our players and our staff. So we put pictures of everyone’s families in their rooms. We pasted action shots from games all over the walls. (I haven’t yet seen a bill for what I’m sure was a big repair paint job.) And whenever you got off the elevators on the ninth floor, and turned to go to your room, the first thing you saw was a massive mural of the Toronto skyline.
Home. It’s where we want to be.
Of course, there are gigantic logistical challenges that will come with trying to figure out how the Raptors and their opponents can stay safe with all the traveling that would come with them staying in Toronto. But it appears the team wants to exhaust every single option that keeps them up north before they have to consider playing anywhere else.