TAMPA — The Toronto Raptors on Friday announced the dates and times for the 17 home games they will play at Amalie Arena in the first half of the upcoming NBA season, but it remains unclear whether fans will be permitted to attend.
The Raptors will open the 2020-21 season Dec. 23 at Amalie Arena against the New Orleans Pelicans.
They will play 37 games in all during the first half of the season, according to the schedule released by the league.
The complete 72-game schedule will include three games against each conference opponent and two against each team in the opposing conference.
The Raptors will call Tampa home for at least the first half of the season, which runs through March 4 and is followed by a break from March 5-8.
The team could return to its Toronto home at that point or later in the season if the pandemic is controlled enough to lift Canadian travel restrictions. If not, Amalie Arena will be available for the entirety of the season.
While a decision has yet to be made regarding spectators at games, Amalie Arena is preparing to host fans. Safety protocols must be approved by the NBA, the Raptors and state and local government.
The arena hosted about 2,000 socially distanced season ticket-holders for the Lightning’s Stanley Cup finals games, and the facility has been refitted to meet all CDC standards with the help of CARES Act funding.
The Raptors will have their longest homestand from Jan. 14-22, a five-game stretch that includes two games against the Charlotte Hornets (Jan. 14 and 16), one against the Dallas Mavericks (Jan. 18) and two against the Miami Heat (Jan. 20 and 22).
The team will spend most of February away from Tampa, playing only one home game over a 10-game stretch from Feb. 2-19. The city hosts the Super Bowl on Feb. 7.
The NBA is using a series model similar to Major League Baseball, with teams occasionally playing consecutive games in the same city to limit travel. The first-half schedule will include half as many one-city road trips as usual.
Though the Raptors will play all three of their games against Miami and two of their three against Orlando in the first half, they still will travel more miles than any team in the league during the early part of the season. According to Positive Residual sports analytics, the Raptors will travel roughly 21,500 miles in the first half. Their first road trip is a peculiar two-city trip to San Antonio (Dec. 26) and then Philadelphia (Dec. 29).
The Raptors schedule includes seven nationally televised games: Jan. 2 at New Orleans (NBA TV), Jan. 16 vs. Charlotte (NBA TV), Jan. 24 at Indiana (NBA TV), Feb. 5 at Brooklyn (ESPN), Feb. 18 at Milwaukee (TNT), Feb. 24 at Miami (ESPN) and March 4 at Boston (TNT).
Regional television schedules have yet to be announced, and it is unclear whether non-nationally televised Raptors games will be broadcast in the Tampa Bay area on either TV or radio. The Orlando Magic hold territorial rights over the area, and Magic games are broadcast locally on Fox Sports Florida.
The Raptors currently are holding training camp at Saint Leo University in Pasco County. They will play their first two preseason games on the road against the Charlotte Hornets (Dec. 12 and 14) before returning to Tampa to play their only home preseason game Dec. 18 against the Miami Heat.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard.