Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri is seen in the tunnel area ahead of first half NBA basketball action against New Orleans Pelicans in Toronto on Tuesday October 22, 2019. Ujiri says he hopes his team will play the next NBA season at Scotiabank Arena, despite rising COVID-19 cases both in Toronto and in the United States.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Raptors president Ujiri hopes his team can play in Toronto as COVID-19 cases spike

Raptors president Ujiri hopes his team can play in Toronto as COVID-19 cases spike

TORONTO — Raptors president Masai Ujiri says he hopes his team will play the next NBA season at Scotiabank Arena, despite rising COVID-19 cases both in Toronto and in the United States.

Speaking Thursday morning on CBC Radio’s “The Current,” Ujiri said he was “sensitive” to the pandemic and understood the difficulties of playing the upcoming season in Toronto. The international border with the United States remains closed to non-essential travel, and a mandatory 14-day quarantine is in effect for those entering Canada.

Ujiri, however, spoke of Toronto’s “passion” for the Raptors, and said his team playing in the community could be “therapeutic.”

Ujiri said while the Raptors have several options in the U.S., he would rather not uproot his team.

“We don’t want to take our team to another city, carry families, carry workers, carry other people to another place,” Ujiri said. “Let us learn here, let us figure it out here.”

Ujiri’s comments come as Ontario and Toronto contend with a significant spike in COVID-19 cases.

Ontario saw a record number of cases for a third straight day Thursday with 1,500 new infections. Toronto had 472 of those cases.

The United States, where the Raptors would travel for away games, reported more than 145,000 cases on Wednesday.

The NBA saw its 2019-20 season pause in March due to the spread of COVID-19. It resumed July 30 at a sealed-off “bubble” complex at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla.

The NBA plans to start the 2020-21 season Dec. 22, with training camps opening Dec. 1.

Earlier this year, Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays were denied permission to play their games at home and relocated temporarily to Buffalo, N.Y.

The 2019-20 NHL season also paused in March before continuing in the hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 12, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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