Raptors will finish NBA campaign in Tampa

The Toronto Raptors, shown before taking the court in their temprary home at Tampa, said Thursday they will finish the 2020-21 NBA campaign in the Florida arena due to Covid-19 issues involving US-Canada travel
The Toronto Raptors, shown before taking the court in their temprary home at Tampa, said Thursday they will finish the 2020-21 NBA campaign in the Florida arena due to Covid-19 issues involving US-Canada travel Mike Ehrmann GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File
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New York (AFP)

The NBA's Toronto Raptors, forced into a United States home base due to Covid-19 issues, said on Thursday they will play the remainder of the 2020-21 season out of Florida.

The Canadian franchise will complete the campaign where they have played so far, at Tampa's Amalie Arena.

Ongoing US-Canadian border restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic and health and safety measures in Canada pushed the Raptors to give up on hopes they might return to Toronto for home games before the season was complete.

"Florida has been really welcoming to us and we're so grateful for the hospitality we've found in Tampa," Raptors president Masai Ujiri said.

The Raptors also could be hoping some of the city's championship fortune rubs off on them.

The NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl on Sunday while the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning captured the Stanley Cup last September and Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays reached last October's World Series before losing the title to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"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," Ujiri said.

"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 announced last November they would play home games out of the Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa for the first half of he 2020-21 season.

The decision to remain based in Tampa comes as the NBA prepares to release a schedule for the second half of the season later this month.

Toronto will have some work to do to match the championship level of the teams that call the region home all the time. At 12-13, the Raptors share fifth in the Eastern Conference with the Indiana Pacers.