Raptors Want to Start Next Season in Toronto Amid COVID Restrictions, Ujiri Says

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVMay 19, 2021

Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri attends a premiere for "The Carter Effect" on day 3 of the Toronto International Film Festival at the Princess of Wales Theatre on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Toronto. (Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)
Arthur Mola/Invision/AP

Toronto Raptors President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri wants the Raptors to play their home games in Toronto throughout the 2021-22 season.

According to Eric Koreen of The Athletic, Ujiri said: "We have no interest in going anywhere else. I think we make people happy. Sports make people happy, generally."

The Raptors were forced to play their home games in Tampa during the 2020-21 season because of restricted travel between Canada and the United States amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Per Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press, Ujiri said the Raptors being the only Canadian team in the NBA can be a "pain in the ass" logistically, before adding: "Guess what? That's the business you put yourself in. I don't want to call out anybody, but there's a lot of work we need to address."

Unable to play in their home venue of the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, the Raptors struggled mightily this season and missed the playoffs.

Despite boasting a talented roster headed by Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry, the Raptors finished 12th in the Eastern Conference with a disappointing 27-45 record.

That ended the Raptors' streak of seven consecutive seasons with a playoff appearance and marked their first losing season since the 2012-13 campaign.

The Raptors are just two years removed from winning the first NBA championship in franchise history, and there is little doubt that the electric atmosphere in Toronto aided in their championship quest.

Even after losing Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers in free agency, the Raptors were a strong team last season as well, going 53-19 and reaching the second round of the playoffs.

It is difficult to say if a lack of chemistry within the roster or the unfamiliarity of playing home games at Amalie Arena in Tampa contributed more to the Raptors' struggles this season, but given that they returned many of the same players from the previous year, it is fair to speculate that their displacement played a significant role.

If the Raptors can get back to playing in Toronto next season and make some personnel tweaks, they have a legitimate chance to be one of the NBA's top bounce-back candidates.