As the NBA’s only team based outside of the United States, the Toronto Raptors had more challenges to overcome once the pandemic swept around the world. Travel restrictions and quarantine rules made it impossible to have games played in Canada. When the NBA decided to continue its season with games being played in one location, Toronto wasn’t really the first choice. There were even talks of Nevada hosting the planned NBA Bubble. But in the end, Orlando, FL was chosen as the destination.
Location: Fort Myers, FL
When the NBA Bubble was born, teams could easily fly to Orlando and set up camp, except for the Raptors. Being based in Canada had its disadvantages. A different country means different rules. The team had to fly out at a certain date to comply with the new travel rules. As a result, the Raptors arrived in Florida 17 days before the NBA Bubble opened. What did they do during those 17 days? They stayed at Florida Gulf Coast University and treated it like a basketball camp.
Location: Orlando, FL
After their stay in Fort Myers, the Raptors moved to their second temporary home, this time in Orlando. This was a move they all looked forward to because they got to stay at the Gran Destino Hotel. It was the newest among the three hotels reserved for NBA teams. The players also did not have to adjust that much when it came to following those new safety protocols and guidelines. While the other teams were getting used to their new living conditions, the Raptors already had a head start after their previous stay in Fort Myers.
2020-2021 NBA Season
Location: Tampa, FL
The new season started but the Raptors found out that they would be at a disadvantage yet again. The team would have no court to call home. The “No Games Allowed in Toronto” rule still existed due to the pandemic. There were rumors about Kansas City, MO offering to “adopt” the Raptors but it was Tampa that became their third temporary home. The locals had to be excited about their new neighbors. Aside from Tom Brady’s arrival in Tampa, an entire NBA squad moved in too, and it gave them a new team to root for.
The Raptors would have to play their “home” games at Amalie Arena. NHL fans will know this place as the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning. All they had to do was to cover the ice and place their own court to convert it from an ice hockey arena to a basketball arena. The court they would have used in Toronto was transported to Tampa Bay. To the untrained eye staring at the television, it would look like a basketball game being played at Scotiabank Arena, the true home of Raptors located in downtown Toronto.
The Raptors would miss the playoffs in 2020-2021 for the first time since 2013. Everyone understood what they were going through. The team even had a Covid-19 outbreak during the campaign and played without a lot of their key players. When the season ended, team management decided to stay in Tampa to hold exit interviews and prepare for the upcoming NBA Draft. The 2021-2022 NBA season is coming soon and it will still be played in the middle of an ongoing pandemic. Will the homesick Raptors finally get go home? To be determined.
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