Report: Raptors Playing Home Games in Louisville Amid Pandemic Being Considered

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistOctober 22, 2020

Toronto Raptors' Pascal Siakam, left, defends against Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

So long as travel into Canada from the United States is banned during the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be the question of where the Toronto Raptors will play their home games next season. 

According to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, Louisville, Kentucky is one possibility: 

"MLB's Toronto Blue Jays played their home games in Buffalo, and the Toronto FC of the MLS played its games in East Hartford, Connecticut.

"The Raptors face a similar dilemma, and league sources tell Yahoo Sports one alternate location that has been broached is Louisville, Kentucky. Former NBA player and successful businessman Junior Bridgeman has been in contact with the NBA, considering Louisville has the KFC Yum! Center that is NBA-ready."

The Raptors could also end up playing in an existing market like New York or a Chicago, though as Goodwill noted, that could run counter to the NBA's hopes of getting fans into seats next season. Would an existing market with fans who have existing allegiances be interested in Raptors games? 

That's where a city like Louisville or even Seattle—though Goodwill reported it would be "an easier sell to get the Raptors in Louisville for a short period," likely given their NBA-ready facility—would be appealing. It would be easier to market the Raptors playing in a totally unique market for a year. It's easy enough to envision the merchandising, with a "Louisville Raptors" City Edition jersey surely to hit the NBA store in such a scenario.

As for when the new league year will begin, Goodwill reported that a Martin Luther King Jr. start date on Jan. 18 is the frontrunner, though a Christmas day start is also a contender. But that is just one of many unknowns. 

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Will the NBA be able to implement a full 82-game schedule and still start the 2021-22 season in October, its usual schedule? After having so much success mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the Orlando bubble, how will the league handle the potential return to travel and fans in stands? Or will we get another bubble season? 

It's hard to imagine that players will sign up for another bubble. It worked incredibly well for a few months, but asking players to quarantine in a fixed location, away from their families, for an entire season is a different proposition altogether. 

The NBA has a lot of questions to answer between now and the start of the 2020-21 season. That includes where the Raptors will host their "home" games.