City of Tampa

Raptors Will Finish 2020/21 Season In Tampa

The Raptors will spend the rest of the 2020/21 season playing their home games at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, the team announced today in a press release.

The franchise, which was unable to play in Toronto to start this season due to the coronavirus-related restrictions in place on the U.S./Canadian border, had left the door open to the possibility of returning to its own building – Scotiabank Arena – later in the season.

The hope was that the COVID-19 situation would have improved enough on both sides of the border to loosen those health and safety restrictions by the second half. However, it appears that won’t happen.

“Florida has been really welcoming to us and we’re so grateful for the hospitality we’ve found in Tampa and at Amalie – 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 of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said in a statement. “But home is where the heart is, and our hearts are in Toronto. We think often of our fans, of our Scotiabank Arena family, and all those we are missing back home, and we can’t wait until we can all be together again.”

The Raptors have enjoyed only a slight “home-court” advantage in Tampa so far in 2020/21, going 6-5 in home games and 6-8 on the road.

The team hosted fans at Amalie Arena at a reduced capacity earlier in the season but later reversed course and closed its doors. The stated reason was the rise of COVID-19 cases in the area, but the fact that many of the fans in attendance were cheering for Raptors’ visiting opponents may have played a part as well.

Raptors Notes: Anunoby, Lowry, Arena Plans, Bembry

Now that Giannis Antetokounmpo is no longer on track to reach free agency in 2021 and preserving as much cap room as possible for next summer may no longer been as high a priority for the Raptors, a rookie scale extension for three-and-D wing OG Anunoby before Monday’s deadline looks like a more realistic possibility.

According to Josh Lewenberg of, Anunoby’s camp is thought to be seeking a deal similar to the one Fred VanVleet just signed (four years, $85MM), while the Raptors will likely counter with an annual salary closer to $15MM per year. Lewenberg wonders if the two sides might ultimately agree to something in the $17-18MM range.

Although the Raptors view Anunoby as a big part of its future, there’s no guarantee that will find common ground in the coming days. If the 23-year-old doesn’t sign a new contract on or before Monday, he’ll become a restricted free agent during the 2021 offseason.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Kyle Lowry is also entering a contract year, but he said today that he hasn’t spoken to the front office about his future beyond this season (Twitter link via Lewenberg).My goal is to stay focused on trying to win a championship for the Raptors,” Lowry said. “I’ll let the other stuff play itself out.” Unlike Anunoby, Lowry isn’t currently eligible to sign an extension.
  • Despite not playing in their home city to start the 2020/21 regular season, the Raptors will be one of a handful of NBA teams hosting fans in their arena. The club issued a press release earlier this week announcing plans to host 3,800 fans for regular season games in Tampa. According to the Raptors, no seats within 30 feet of the court will be available, and a number of other safety measures will be in place, including fans being required to wear masks and practice physical distancing while in the building. Fans will also be screened when they enter the arena and will be prohibited from bringing in bags.
  • DeAndre’ Bembry is making a strong impression on Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, who said that it’s “hard to keep (him) off the floor,” per Blake Murphy of The Athletic (Twitter link). The newly-signed swingman sounds like a good bet to be one of the first players off the bench for the club.

Raptors Notes: FVV, 2020/21 Arena, Baynes, Boucher

Returning Raptors guard Fred VanVleet discussed his new four-year, $85MM deal with the club and the league’s current perception of the Raptors, during a remote Tuesday conference, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps.

“I think we’re kind of headed back in the direction of where we were pre-Kawhi [Leonard], where people are overlooking us again, which is not a bad place to be in,” VanVleet said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and we’ve got to get a lot better as individuals, and then we’ll go out there and see what we can do.”

There’s more out of Toronto:

  • The Raptors will start the 2020/21 NBA season in Tampa, playing in Amalie Arena, the home of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. But the team’s first choice was apparently a different Florida hockey arena. Toronto preferred the Florida Panthers’ home arena, the BB&T Center in Sunrise, tweets Scott Soshnick of Sportico. However, they couldn’t agree with the nearby Heat on certain “stipulations” and ended up pivoting to Tampa, per Soshnick.
  • New Raptors center Aron Baynes is excited to bring his recently-expanded offensive skillset to a playoff contender in Toronto, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN. “I’m just looking forward to coming in and playing with these guys, because I know what they’re all about,” Baynes said. “That’s what it is at the end of the day – we want to win and give ourselves the best chance to be able within shooting distance of getting that ultimate prize.”
  • Following his recent restricted free agency payday, Raptors big man Chris Boucher intends to maintain his hardworking ethos, according to Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun. “I’ve been in Toronto the whole summer just to make sure that I was working on my stuff and learning the game as much as I can,” Boucher said. “So it’s about the next step, and they always told me that and it’s be an everyday contributor, so that’s what we’re working on now.”

Eastern Notes: Pistons, Ariza, Raptors, Hornets, Magic

When the Pistons eventually officially acquire forward Trevor Ariza, who is being dealt from Portland to Houston to Detroit, the expectation is that he’ll have his full $12.8MM salary guaranteed, tweets Keith Smith of RealGM.

Ariza’s salary was initially only partially guaranteed for $1.8MM, but as cap expert Albert Nahmad explains (via Twitter), his salary guarantee deadline will come and go before the Pistons are able to officially acquire him. As a result, the Rockets will create a $12.8MM traded player exception in the transaction.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Nashville was in the mix for the Raptors as a temporary home late into the decision process, but the team opted for Florida for a few reasons, including the lack of a state income tax, per Blake Murphy and Eric Koreen of The Athletic. There’s also a brand-new hotel next to Amalie Arena in Tampa with ballrooms that could be used as makeshift practice spaces, according to The Athletic’s duo.
  • Undrafted Kentucky forward Kahlil Whitney is considering signing an Exhibit 10 contract with the Hornets, according to Adam Zagoria of Forbes (Twitter link). Whitney declared for the draft this year after a single season of college ball.
  • Amid rumors that point guard D.J. Augustin is drawing interest from Phoenix and Milwaukee, Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel says (via Twitter) that a return to the Magic is very unlikely for Augustin, given the team’s cap constraints and Wednesday’s Cole Anthony pick.

Raptors Will Begin The Season In Tampa

12:53pm: The Raptors will play their home games at Amalie Arena, reports Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (via Twitter). That’s the home of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.

12:03pm: The Raptors‘ plan to start the 2020/21 season at their home arena was rejected today by the Canadian government, according to Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. As a result the team will play its home games in Tampa, team president Masai Ujiri announced.

“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 playing in Toronto.”

The Raptors considered several cities, but Tampa was the most popular choice among players, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. Management took that into consideration and it affected the final decision.

Canada has imposed restrictions limiting travel from the U.S. to guard against the spread of COVID-19. Those sanctions were extended today until at least December 21, according to a tweet from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“We’re trying to do what’s best for the organization,” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said this week. “So you can kind of go down the line. You know, what is first and foremost? The players. What does the practice facility look like? What would be the accommodations around the medical facilities, the medical treatment? Obviously you need to have an arena that fits NBA standards. There’s a ton of broadcast issues. There’s health and safety. There’s availability for arena dates. There’s a ton of stuff there.”

The Raptors don’t have much time to work out the logistics of playing in Florida. Next season starts in 32 days and the league plans to open training camps on December 1.

The team had been hoping to reach a solution that would let it return to Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. Team officials were working with the NBA on health concerns and were optimistic that they had a proposal that would meet with government approval.

Tampa Emerging As Raptors’ Most Likely Temporary Home?

With NBA training camps set to get underway in less than three weeks and the regular season scheduled to tip off in less than six weeks, the Raptors don’t have much time to figure out where they’ll be playing in 2020/21.

The franchise’s strong preference is still to spend the season in Toronto, with one team executive telling Michael Grange of, “If we can get it done in Toronto, we’d to it tomorrow.” However, restrictions on travel between the U.S. and Canada due to the coronavirus pandemic will make it impractical for teams to be going back and forth across the border for the next several months.

As such, the Tampa Bay area has emerged as the most likely temporary home for the Raptors, team and league sources tell Grange. Tampa had been one of several rumored options the club was considering, along with along with Nashville, Newark, and Kansas City, among others. Now, it sounds like Tampa has the upper hand on those other locations.

“Ideally, the Raptors are able to play their upcoming season in Toronto,” Rob Higgins, executive director of Tampa Bay Sports Commission, said in an email to on Wednesday. “But should that not be possible, we would have a strong interest in working to successfully meet and exceed their expectations as an alternative host. We’ve enjoyed our preliminary conversations with their organization and stand ready to assist if needed.”

The Raptors have reportedly engaged in discussions with Canadian government officials in the hopes of figuring out a plan that will allow them to play their games in Toronto. However, it might be a tough sell, with COVID-19 case numbers increasing in recent weeks on both sides of the border.

While the organization is willing to take the decision down to the wire, it wants to have some clarity before the start of training camp, according to Grange, who says the Raps don’t want to conduct their camp in Toronto and then play elsewhere during the season, like the Blue Jays did earlier this year.

“If we’re here for training camp, we’re here for the season,” an insider told Sportsnet. “We’re not going to come back and then have to find another place to play.”

Atlantic Notes: Paul, Fizdale, Knicks, Raptors

Former Knicks coach David Fizdale believes the team wouldn’t be a good fit for Chris Paul in a potential trade, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

Fizdale, who coached the team for 104 games over two seasons, argued the fit would be better for the Knicks than it would be for Paul — especially with Paul still being without a championship entering his 16th NBA season.

“I think the Knicks have to be open to a lot of different things,’’ Fizdale said. “Would he be a great fit for them? Absolutely. I think he would fit those kids — Mitchell Robinson going to the rim, they get more spacing, more shooting. Absolutely, he would fit. The big stage. He doesn’t get sick [with COVID-19].”

“[But] for him, where he is at his career, I don’t think it’s a good fit for him and what he’s trying to do.’’

Paul is coming off his first All-Star season since the 2015/16 campaign, averaging 17.6 points, 6.7 assists and 31.5 minutes per game with the Thunder. For the Knicks, the team must decide between pursuing a star player and continuing to slowly build their young core — a decision that’ll be made by general manager Scott Perry and president Leon Rose.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News examines how the Knicks could improve their roster before next season, listing four ideas for potential trades. New York accrued just a 21-45 record last year (fourth-worst in the Eastern Conference).
  • The Raptors have a number of questions to answer this offseason, including where the team will play during the 2020/21 season, Damien Cox of The Toronto Star writes. Toronto also has a number of key players set to reach free agency later this month, including Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka.
  • Raptors officials visited Nashville, Tennessee last week to investigate another potential home for the team next season, Adam Vingan of The Athletic writes. With Canada closing the border except for essential travel, Toronto likely needs to find a temporary arena located in the United States for most or all of the upcoming campaign. Kansas City, Missouri and Tampa Bay, Florida are also in the running to host the team, Vingan relays. Despite conducting due-diligence, the club is reportedly holding out hope that it will be able to play in Toronto next season.

Raptors Could Play Next Season in Newark

The Raptors have talked to the operators of the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, about using the facility for their home games next season, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. The building holds 19,500 fans and is located relatively close to Toronto’s four Atlantic Division rivals.

In response to the coronavirus, Canada has placed restrictions on international travel from the United States that are likely to still be in place whenever next season begins. With other teams unable to freely travel into Toronto, the Raptors are searching for a U.S. site to serve as their temporary home. Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays played their home games this summer at Sahlen Field in Buffalo.

The Prudential Center, which serves as home to the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and Seton Hall basketball, has experience in hosting an NBA team, Bondy notes. The Nets played there for two seasons before relocating to Brooklyn in 2012. The building is owned by Harris Blitzer Sports Entertainment, which also owns the Sixers.

A source tells Bondy that the Raptors also had discussions about playing in Tampa Bay or Nashville or possibly being guests in another NBA team’s arena. Kansas City offered the T-Mobile Center, while a similar pitch from Louisville was declined. A move to Buffalo has also been suggested.

The NBA is trying to limit travel next season because of COVID-19 concerns, which could make Newark an ideal location. Bondy points out that it’s only about 15 miles from Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden and roughly 90 minutes from Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Boston is 225 miles away.