The Toronto Raptors' plan to start the 2020-21 NBA season at home has been denied by the Canadian Government, according to The Toronto Star's Doug Smith.
Shortly thereafter, it was confirmed in a statement made by team president Masai Ujiri that the team will begin the season in Tampa, Florida - home of the 2020 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
"The Raptors worked diligently with public health officials at the local, provincial and federal level to secure a plan that would permit us to play our 2020-21 season on home soil and on our home court at Scotiabank Arena. These conversations were productive, and we found strong support for the protocols we put forward. Ultimately, the current public health situation facing Canadians, combined with the urgent need to determine where we will play means that we will begin our 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida," Ujiri said in a statement.
"We want to thank all levels of government and their public health officials for their dedication to this process, and for looking after the health of Canadians. We commit to continuing our work together, planning for a safe return to play in Toronto. And as an organization, we remain committed to doing all we can to promote and demonstrate public health measures to help combat the spread of COVID-19 in Canada."
"So we'll be away from our home and our fans for now. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I'm not sure that's possible for us - we love Toronto and Canada, and we know we have the best fans in the NBA. For now, I'll ask you to cheer for us from afar, and we'll look forward to the day we are all together again."
The Raptors put forth an extensive plan to the Canadian government with hopes of playing at Scotiabank Arena safely when the NBA campaign begins on Dec. 22.
Tampa had been widely reported as a potential temporary home for the Raptors over the last couple of weeks. Kansas City, Newark, Buffalo and Fort Lauderdale were also among cities reported as potential homes for Toronto.
There has been speculation around the NBA according to NBC Sports that the Raptors may switch places with the Washington Wizards in the Southeast Division to help limit travel.
The Wizards would join the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers in the Atlantic and the Raptors would join the Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets, Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks in the Southeast. Things would go back to normal in the 2021-22 season if the Raptors could return to playing games safely in Toronto. A lot of details will need to be ironed out but the potential of reducing travel could make sense for both teams to move with the league planning on leaning heavily on regional scheduling.
NBA training camps are set to begin on Dec. 1 for a shortened 72-game regular season.
More to come.