Jurassic Park 2.0
As we are not the first to report, the NBA and its Players' Association have (more or less) decided to start the upcoming season on December 22. Considering the temporal proximity of this date and the potential start of training camp on December 1, though, the league is still unsure about multiple things. One of these uncertainties is the location the Toronto Raptors will call their home at the end of December since the Canadian border is still closed to nonessential travel due to the currently ongoing pandemic.
Even though the NBA is prioritizing having the Raptors stay in their natural habitat that is Toronto, nothing is guaranteed since the city's MLB club, the Toronto Blue Jays, were forced to temporarily relocate to Buffalo in order to compete. A variety of possible options have been mentioned - some more valid than others. Additionally, some cities are vehemently seeking the chance to accommodate the NBA franchise with the intention of entering the conversation for future league expansion. Now the league has to decide taking a plethora of factors into consideration.
Therefore, we will list the most prominent alternatives to staying in Toronto below:
From a geographical standpoint, Buffalo is the nearest of all potential candidates, which is favorable. Also, it is to mention that it worked out well for the Blue Jays facing competition here. The local KeyBank Arena is considered a quality facility and has hosted various March Madness games in the past. Complications might arise, however, as Buffalo has been suspected to be a projected target for the NHL and their planned "hub cities". Furthermore, there is a lack of adequate practice facilities considered to be "up to NBA standards".
The city's Bridgestone Arena would probably be able to cater to an NBA franchise as it is the home of the NHL's Nashville Predators and is known to have regularly hosted the SEC Tournament for Men's Basketball prior to the pandemic. Another beneficial feature of the optional Tennessee location is the time required for travelling. Atlantic Division rivals in New York, Brooklyn, Boston and Philadelphia are within a flying distance of about 2 hours.
Competing in the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, which has been home to the Nets and the WNBA's Liberty at the beginning of the 2010s, has many advantages. For example, the proximity to the Raptors' divisional rivals and a major international airport. Furthermore, the area provides a number of acceptable to desirable practice facilities. But possibly being forced to share the arena with the New Jersey Devils hockey team might end up being less advantageous.
This Kentucky location and its "NBA-ready" KFC Yum! Center have been in the conversation from early on, but the city of Louisville has been present in the news for even longer as it was the venue where Breonna Taylor became the victim of a vicious act of police brutality. This relation to social injustice and inequality has recently resulted in the rejection of Louisville as a valid option since players and the organization allegedly are reluctant to playing in such an environment.
Kansas City, MO
Sending the Toronto Raptors to Missouri would undoubtedly make sense. The Kansas City area is considered one of the biggest television markets without a local NBA tenant. The residing sports community and its fans - already blessed with an NFL powerhouse in the Kansas City Chiefs - would certainly not be opposed to being gifted with another franchise. The T-Mobile Center possesses the capacity and quality to host a team like the Raptors. The three hours flying distance might come in as problematic, however, in addition to the high COVID-19 infection rates in the area.
A few different locations in the state of Florida - namely Fort Myers, Lake Buena Vista and Tampa - have also been mentioned in various reports. Allegedly, these alternatives seem less likely to be chosen due to health concerns in the state and the lacking quality of hotels and facilities. Still, the fact that the area was host to the successful NBA bubble and acceptable distance to divisional opposition could turn out to be favorable.
This name has sprung up rather recently in a few speculations without much rationale. Still understandable, considering Seattle's position as a potential candidate to receive a future expansion team.
Having all the aforementioned possibilities lying on the table - or probably even more - the NBA still intends to find a way to allow their teams to travel across the northern border in order to host games inside the Air Canada Center in Toronto. But only time will tell if regulations could bend in favor of the NBA and we are going to see on December 22 where Kyle Lowry and his fellow Raptors will suit up.