NBA: Toronto Raptors forced to relocate to Tampa for start of season

Toronto Raptors will start the NBA season next month in Tampa, Florida, due to travel restrictions put in place by the Canadian government to stem COVID-19.

The league, which wrapped up its previous season in a quarantined 'bubble' in Florida, after a four-month hiatus, will kick off a 72-game season on December 23 (NZ time), with teams playing in their home venues.

The Raptors, the only Canada-based NBA franchise, announced the relocation, with land borders between the US, Canada and Mexico closed for non-essential travel, at least through December 22, due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.

"The Raptors worked diligently with public health officials at the local, provincial and federal level to secure a plan that would permit us to play our 2020/21 season on home soil," says Raptors president Masai Ujiri.

"Ultimately, the current public health situation facing Canadians, combined with the urgent need to determine where we will play, means that we will begin our 2020/21 season in Tampa, Florida."

The Raptors, who won the 2019 championship, have not specified which venue they plan to use.

The NBA, which held its 'virtual draft' this week, will begin its pre-season on December 11.