The conference call took place in his native Hawaii, far from where Toronto Raptors general manager Bobby Webster normally works.
Even when NBA training camps open in less than two weeks, Webster may still have to work away from where the Raptors normally train and play.
“We want to stay in Toronto. But as we all know, time is of the essence,” Webster said Tuesday. “We’re also working on a path to play elsewhere.”
The Raptors currently face more complicated logistics than the NBA’s 29 other teams because of Canada’s coronavirus regulations. Although the Raptors are allowed to travel to the United States, they would be subject to a 14-day quarantine anytime they returned home. Any visiting team would face the same restrictions.
That would lead to a disrupted itinerary considering the NBA plans to have a reduced 72-game regular season between December and May, followed by the playoffs scheduled through late July.
“We don’t have a drop-dead date” with determining where the Raptors would practice and play games for the 2020-21 season, Webster maintained. But with training camps beginning on Dec. 1 and the season opener taking place on Dec. 22, Webster conceded “it’s getting close.”
The Raptors have made proposals to the Canadian government about lifting those restrictions. Webster added he’s “not aware of any communications with the U.S. government,” either with the administrations of President Donald Trump or president-elect Joe Biden. The Raptors are also hopeful that the Canadian government will take into account how the NBA successfully hosted a season restart on an isolated campus outside Orlando, Florida, which included daily COVID-19 testing.
“There an infinite number of boxes to check into each location,” Webster said. “We’re doing that in a couple of different ones. Obviously we hope to have resolution in Toronto or the alternate location as soon as possible.”
The Raptors have not finalized any locations, which could include Buffalo, New York; Tampa, Florida; Kansas City, Missouri; and Newark, New Jersey. The Raptors don’t plan to play in Louisville, Kentucky, or Nashville, Tennessee, as some reports suggested, amid concerns that would complicate the NBA’s hope to minimize travel.
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Still, the Raptors are weighing many different variables in determining a backup plan on where to live, train and play.
“What does the practice facility look like and the accommodations around the medical facilities and medical treatment?” Webster said. “You need to have an arena that fits NBA standards. There’s a ton of broadcast issues. There’s health and safety. There’s availability for arena dates. There’s a ton of stuff there. Lifestyle matters. We’re asking people to uproot their lives and go to a place that they may potentially be away from their families for six or seven months. So we want to be respectful of that and want people to feel like we’re going somewhere that is safe and can settle in.”
Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays played their home games this past season in Buffalo, the home of their Triple-A affiliate. Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC played its home matches in East Hartford, Connecticut. And the Raptors trained in Fort Myers, Florida, before traveling to the NBA campus bubble for the season restart.
“Our plan is whatever we do decide on, we want to go down there and get settled. We don’t want to have a trip back to Toronto,” Webster said. “But there’s going to be a natural break in the season. So there would be an opportunity to transition back.”