It’s not hard to understand why the Toronto Raptors won’t be coming back to Toronto any time soon.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact every part of day-to-day life and with the emergence of COVID variants around the world, the Canadian government has only tightened international travel restrictions almost a year into the pandemic. It couldn’t have been a very hard decision for the government to make, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a tough pill to swallow for Raptors fans and Raptors players alike.
“That is our home,” Kyle Lowry said of Toronto just hours after the team officially made the decision to play out the remainder of the 2020-21 season in Tampa. “That is where we play. It’s our home city. The country we play in and the country we play for. At the end of the day, Toronto Raptors is on the front of our jersey and we play for that.”
The 34-year-old Lowry said he understands the decision the government made. Take the Raptors’ last seven days, for example. The team played last Friday in Brooklyn then flew to Atlanta for a game on Saturday, left for Memphis for Monday’s game, then over to Washington DC for Wednesday, before wrapping up in Boston on Thursday. Even with all the restrictions the NBA has put in place prohibiting almost all contact with the outside world, the amount of travel and the number of border crossings necessary to play in Toronto made a return unrealistic.
“It’s unfortunate that the world is in this situation, but as professionals and as men we have to do our job,” he said. “We would love to be home. We would love to be in front of our fans and it sucks that we can’t be. The connection is still there. We understand they still follow us on social media and all those things.”
With any uncertainty behind them, the team can now really get settled in Tampa. Pascal Siakam said he finally found a home after being one of the last Raptors players to move out of the team hotel.
“It feels good. Got a pool a little bit, you can go in the sun, yeah, it feels nice,” he said. “It’s not home, home but it is what it is. It’s somewhere that I can go and know that it’s safe and it’s calm.”
Toronto will spend the next two days in Tampa, but they won’t be there for very long. After Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, it’ll be right back out on the road for a three-game road trip starting in Milwaukee on Tuesday.