Despite multiple cities showing interest in providing a Toronto Raptors home in the 2020-2021 NBA season, it looks like it will be either Newark or Scotiabank Arena on tap.
The issue for the Raptors and the NBA: the Canadian government has restrictions on foreign visitors to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — the NBA is looking looking at basically a closed border. So one option, at least for the beginning of the season, is for the Raptors to play in the United States until restrictions are lifted. Cities like Kansas City, Louisville, Tampa, Nashville, Buffalo, Rochester and Seattle (which makes sense at all, given that KeyArena renovations won’t be done until the 2021-2022 NHL season) have been mentioned in conjunction with hosting Raptors games; other options involve the Raptors shared Barclays Center with the Nets.
But the first choice calls for the Raptors to play at Scotiabank Arena under bubble conditions for visiting players. From the Toronto Sun:
In order for a visiting NBA team to enter Canada they would first need a special exemption from the Canadian government to do so and then access to a rapid COVID test that is still being tested in Canada.
If you recall this past summer, the Toronto Blue Jays attempted to get a special exemption from the Canadian government to have teams from the U.S. play them at the Rogers Center. That attempt failed forcing the team to play their season out in Buffalo.
There’s no question our knowledge of the virus, how it spreads and how to keep it from spreading has come a long way in the intervening months but in the midst of a second wave of the pandemic as we now find ourselves, it seems rather unlikely that the government is going to be actively looking to provide exemptions under the current conditions.
A backup plan that seems to make sense, but probably won’t happen, has the Raptors home temporarily set at Newark’s Prudential Center, home of the New Jersey Devils (NHL) and a former home of the New Jersey Nets. This is purely a pragmatic decision: with the homes of the Knicks, Nets, 76ers and Wizards accessible by bus rather than requiring flights, travel is cheaper and easier. It also makes travel for visiting teams to the New York City market easier.
But wherever the team ends up, a decision will need to be made soon. With a truncated regular season beginning Dec. 22 and training camps opening Dec. 1, time is of the essence.
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