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The Raptors will continue to play home games in Tampa, Florida, for the rest of the 2020-21 NBA season, citing border restrictions and being “mindful of public safety measures” in Toronto as factors preventing them from returning home to play at any point this season.
“Florida has been really welcoming to us and we’re so grateful for the hospitality we’ve found in Tampa and at Amalie [Arena] — 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 Masai Ujiri said in a statement Thursday.
“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 spent weeks before the season working with the city of Toronto to try to find a way to play games at home, only to eventually have to relocate to the United States.
At the time, the Raptors said they hoped they’d be able to get back to Toronto at some point later in the season, and they said the decision to relocate to Tampa was only set in stone for the first half of the season.
It became official for the whole season on Thursday.
Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays went through a similar process last summer, negotiating to play games at home before eventually relocating to Buffalo, New York, for the 2020 season.
After starting the season 2-8, the Raptors have gone 10-5 since, and they have a 6-5 mark at Amalie Arena. They have a chance to get to .500 Thursday night when they visit the Boston Celtics.