Last week, a flurry of reports came from Shams Charania of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN regarding the start of the 2020-2021 NBA season, where the teams would be playing their games, and what the league’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement may look like.
In a nutshell, the NBA is targeting a 72-game season which would start in mid-December, and conclude before the 2021 Summer Olympics, allowing NBA players to represent their home countries in Tokyo. They are expecting the salary cap for next season not to dip below $109M – an encouraging sign for free agents this summer looking to command big money. Most surprisingly however, the NBA is aiming towards having teams play within their home markets, and abandon the idea of recreating the bubble that they did in Orlando which worked so flawlessly.
It’s a rather ambitious attempt by the NBA with the United States is still seeing over 50,000 new cases of COVID-19 every day, the country’s total death toll has surpassed 230,000 people, and it doesn’t appear to be getting any better with cold weather on the way, and a widely accessible vaccine still several months away.
If we’ve learned one thing from the zero-case bubble however, it’s to never doubt the NBA. If ultimately, the league does decide to one-up themselves and pull off a stunt that no other professional sports league has been able to so far – and that is playing out the entirety of their season with teams flying across the country every couple of days – the Toronto Raptors will need to temporarily find a new home.
Since the Canadian-American border is closed to inhibit the spread of COVID-19, the Raptors would be the sole NBA team prohibited from playing games in their home arena. With all of their competition residing south of the border, they too, would need to stay on that side if they intend to participate next season. Josh Lewenberg of TSN reported that the Raptors remain hopeful they would be able to play games in Scotiabank Arena, however that remains unlikely, and even if that were to come to fruition, the team would need a contingency plan just in case.
Reports from Yahoo surfaced last week that the Raptors might be nearing a deal with the KFC Yum! Centre in Louisville to host their games next season. Those reports were quickly shot down by former Milwaukee Buck, Junior Bridgeman, who is now the General Manager of the Yum! Centre, stating that he called Raptors owner, Larry Tanenbaum, and that there was no truth to the report.
Additionally, the Raptors players reportedly voiced their reluctance to play in Lousiville following the demise of Breonna Taylor, and the unrest which followed thereafter.
Just yesterday, New York’s Senator Tim Kennedy voiced his wanting to host the Raptors in Buffalo at the KeyBank Centre – the home of the Buffalo Bills. Supposedly, his intent was so serious that he wrote a letter to NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, and Raptors President, Masai Ujiri.
“The fact we had the Blue Jays play here and our community came together in a moment’s notice and were able to host not only this incredible major league team but doing in such short order was a demonstration of what we have as a community,” Kennedy said.
There is no word on whether the Raptors have had any reciprocal interest as of yet in moving to Buffalo for the year, which is understandable, given that their sights right now are focused on finding a way to play in Toronto.
The most recent place that one could add to the list of cities hoping to host the 2019 NBA Champions next season is Kansas City. NFL superstar Patrick Mahomes voiced his opinion on Twitter today, lobbying his local leaders to find a way to bring the Raptors to Kansas. His tweet was then subsequently quote tweeted by Quinton Lucas, the mayor of Kansas City, who said that he’s “working on it.”
Working on it. https://t.co/1Ud3AIsgRy
— Mayor Q (@QuintonLucasKC) October 26, 2020
With improvements in the speed of testing that would be readily available for NBA players to use, fans can continue to hold out hope for the Raptors to play their season in Toronto next year. If that doesn’t end up happening though, Kyle Lowry and Patrick Mahomes hanging out at Arrowhead Stadium would be pretty cool.