The Toronto Raptors arrived on Monday in southwest Florida, set to begin their preparations for next month’s restart of the NBA season.
If the Raptors return to the NBA Finals, they could be in Florida for nearly four full months.
The reigning NBA champions are later this week to start training for the season restart at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, making that school their home base until they head north to the Disney complex near Orlando, Florida, on about July 7.
They landed on Monday afternoon in Fort Myers, then boarded buses for the team hotel.
Toronto’s arrival comes as Florida is dealing with a significant spike in positive COVID-19 test results over the past week.
The Disney complex, about 250km from the Fort Myers area, is next month set to play host to both the NBA and MLS.
The Orlando Pride withdrew from the upcoming National Women’s Soccer League tournament on Monday after six players and four staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
The Raptors’ setup is different from what awaits the other 21 NBA teams that plan to participate in the restart at Disney.
Other teams are working out at their home facilities, but as the NBA’s lone team from outside the US, the Raptors would have had some logistical difficulties in having players gather in Toronto to prepare for the trip to Disney.
Under Canadian rules, Raptors players who have been in the US would have had to quarantine for 14 days upon their return to Toronto, so the team decided to hold its pre-camp workouts in the US.
It is to take place with very strict rules to keep players safe, with access to workouts strictly limited to essential team personnel.
“In keeping with NBA and team safety protocols, there will be no group workouts during this phase of return to play, and strict protocols have been designed to ensure this initial level of access will take place in a safe, controlled and healthy way,” the Raptors said in a team statement.
All group workouts and the official start of training camp for the resumed season are to occur at Disney. Individual voluntary workouts are resuming this week, and yesterday was the start of NBA-mandated COVID-19 testing for players and essential staff of all 22 of the Disney-bound teams.
The Raptors were 46-18 when the season was halted on March 11 because of the pandemic. When play resumes on July 30, they are to hold a three-game lead over the Boston Celtics in the race for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
If the Raptors were to make the NBA Finals and if that series went the full seven games, they would be playing in Florida as late as Oct. 13, the league’s proposed plan for the restarted season showed, although the league and the National Basketball Players Association are working this week to finalize details.
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