After slogging through a tough start to the year playing away from their homes and families, the Raptors on Thursday announced the routine will continue, as they will play the entirety of their 2021 calendar in Tampa as well. The choice, the Raptors said, was made in order to be “mindful of public safety measures” in Canada as well as travel restrictions between the two countries.
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 in Tampa for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 11, 2021
The Raptors’ inability to play games in Toronto seems to come more from the fact that teams from all over the United States would have had to travel into Canada, which is still closed to non-essential travelers who are not Canadian. Maybe the Raptors could have played games in front of an empty ScotiaBank Arena, but the Canadian government seemed unwilling to make exceptions for NBA teams to break the border restrictions.
“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 in a statement, in a nod to the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl victory.
Playing in their new digs, the Raptors are 4-5 at home and 12-13 overall. The team has struggled to defend all season and has greatly missed departed players like Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. They have, however, gotten past some of their early-season struggles, winning six of their last 10 games and sitting in a tie for fifth in the Eastern Conference.