Raptors can’t wait to return to Toronto, but 2021 homecoming still unclear – fr

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Raptors can’t wait to return to Toronto, but 2021 homecoming still unclear – fr


TORONTO – It’s been over 14 months since the Toronto Raptors played in Toronto.

If there was any doubt that absence makes the heart more loving, consider what the team is missing in the city and country they call home.

Fred VanVleet says Canadian grocery stores are missing. Nick Nurse longs for “snow, wind and cold”. Kyle Lowry told USA Today he missed driving on the Gardiner Freeway and the DVP (Don Valley Parkway). You didn’t read it wrong. They even miss traffic and winter weather.

As they learned this season, the grass isn’t always greener, even though the grass in their temporary home is literally greener.

The Raptors have tried to make the most of their time in Tampa. They invested considerable resources to build a makeshift training facility inside the ballroom of a downtown hotel. They have helped players and staff, as well as their families, find housing and get settled. They embraced the community as much as possible under the circumstances of a global pandemic. But I never felt like home.

“It was difficult,” said the Montreal native. Chris Boucher. “They did everything for us, set up and everything was great, but it’s not Toronto.

“I mean, look, I know it’s become a thing,” VanVleet said. “Tampa was great. I don’t want to sit here and make it look like I’m fucked up in Tampa, but it’s just not Toronto. This is not where we are supposed to be.

With border restrictions in place last fall, the Raptors have considered several U.S. cities as potential hosts for the 2020-2021 season, including Newark, NJ and Nashville, Tennessee, among others.

They had hoped the federal and provincial governments would grant them an exception allowing the team and 29 other NBA clubs to go back and forth, bypass quarantine guidelines and play games in Toronto. It’s always been a long one, and when their request was officially rejected in November, less than two weeks before training camp began, they began the process of moving to Tampa – a popular choice among players due to its weather. heat and the absence of state income tax.

Given everything that has gone wrong, it’s impossible to quantify the important role the movement played in their disappointing season, which saw them miss the playoffs for the first time in eight years. However, as the only team in the league to have played their home games more than 2,000 kilometers from home, there is no denying that this was a significant disadvantage.

“At the end of the day you really realize how much we’ve lost not being in Toronto this year,” Stanley Johnson said last week. “Really playing road games all year round, really not being home, really not having your own training facility, it hasn’t given us the best footing.

The quick turnaround before camp made it even more difficult. Players and staff stayed at the team hotel until they found temporary homes in or around town. With Tampa hosting the Super Bowl in January, it wasn’t as easy as they’d hoped it would be. In some cases, it took months to settle. When Amalie Arena started allowing a limited number of fans to attend games, the team was able to recoup some of its costs, but many of those fans were there to support the opposition.

Although players couldn’t wait to get on a plane and say goodbye to Florida when the season ended Sunday afternoon, and many of them didn’t praise their Tampa experience , there is obviously a results-based thinking involved. If the Raptors had overcome adversity, as they have done so many times before and expected it again, then Tampa would probably look a lot different. . Instead, this is the place they will naturally associate with a frustrating campaign.

However, their return home to Toronto will have to wait at least a little longer. The organization will continue to use Tampa as a home base for most of the offseason. This makes sense considering they’re already set up there and can accommodate pre-draft workouts, with prospects making regular trips back and forth. Assuming the Summer League is a tryout this year, they’ll be spending most of August in Las Vegas.

The question is: what happens after this? It’s still unclear whether the Raptors will be able to open next season in Toronto, although the organization remains optimistic.

“I have a lot of hope and I would be very, very, very disappointed [if it doesn’t happen]The nurse said on Monday.

Getting the green light depends on a number of factors, including how quickly the vaccine rollout in Ontario is limiting the number of cases in the province. The Raptors will also be closely monitoring developments with the Blue Jays and Toronto FC to see if they are allowed to play games north of the border at some point this summer.

It’s hard to predict what things will look like a month from now, let alone when the 2021-22 NBA season begins next fall. They will need a response from the government long before that. According to multiple sources, the league is unlikely to allow the Raptors to wait as long as they did last year. There is no official deadline in place, but it is believed the team will need to know where they play at least the first half of their home games in early August.

Tampa is the fallback. If so, the transition would almost certainly be smoother the second time around. Reselling players on it can be more difficult, however. But it is an absolute last resort. Even if they have to play in an empty Scotiabank Arena, unlike the possibility of hosting crowds at full capacity in Florida, the Raptors’ preference is clear, and it is a strong preference.

“You want to feel comfortable, you want to feel at home and Toronto is for us”, Pascal Siakam mentionned. “So I think we’re really looking forward to it. Then again there are a lot of things we cannot control, but obviously our hope is definitely to be there. [next season]. »

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