The Toronto Raptors, Welcome to Florida

Photo by Slam Magazine

Nowadays, most news seems to be surrounding the novel coronavirus and pretty much nothing else. This virus has spread and impacted every single aspect of our daily lives, and sports have definitely not been spared.

In Canada, the Toronto Raptors have run into a problem – Canadian travel restrictions have put limitations on those trying to enter the country, making it nearly impossible for teams to cross the border and get to Scotiabank Arena and play Toronto on their home turf.

After spending months in the famed ‘NBA Bubble’ down in Orlando, Florida, the raptors got pretty used to the weather. So, when it came to deciding on a new home for this season, they naturally selected the Sunshine State.

“We had a little vote,” said small forward Norman Powell, “Nick texted me for sure and I know a few other guys and just listing what our top options were. Tampa was up there. One day I had it as the first [choice] and another time, I had it as the second. Fort Lauderdale was first.”

Before the NBA restart, the Raptors spent some time down in Fort Meyers on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University for a brief training camp, meaning they’ve spent more time in Florida this past year than in Toronto. 

“The weather when we were here [before] was good — hot and humid — a little too humid at times,” Powell said.

Photo by Frank Gunn on Sports Net

The Raptors reportedly had plans to play in FT. Lauderdale at the BB&T Center, but its proximity to Miami, where the defending Eastern Conference Champions play, might’ve been a deterrent.

Besides the weather, one of the main driving factors for the move down to Florida is the no state income tax. On ‘The Old Man & The Three’ podcast will JJ Reddick, Toronto guard Fred VanFleet said that he saw Florida as a very “attractive destination” to play in, the weather and the lack of income tax played a huge factor in the move. 

The Raptors are still unsure if they will be hosting fans in the Amelie Arena this season, but they have seen the warm welcome Tampa has given them. Shirts read “We the South”, a play on the Raptors slogan “We The North.”

Toronto’s General Manager, Booby Webster, said he has seen those T-shirts.

“We love it,” Webster said. “We’re ready to dive into this community.”

It seems that the Raptors are all happy with the decision to be back in Florida for this season. They’re quite familiar with it and enjoy being able to step outside just wearing shorts and a t-shirt in the winter. 

“I can only say this: I know I’d rather be in Toronto, but I’m not,” Head Coach Nick Nurse said. “And now I’m going to make the best of it here. I’m not going to make any excuses and I’m going to get to work and we’re going to expect to play at a super-high level. And that’s it. There’s a lot of things surrounding what’s happening and we’re going to do our best to focus on just becoming the best basketball team we can become. And we do that with just accepting, here’s where we are.”