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The Raptors will call Tampa home after federal government pitch strikes out – Toronto Star

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The Raptors will make Tampa their temporary home.

A plan to have them start the 2020-21 NBA season with home games at Scotiabank Arena was dashed by the federal government on Friday, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation, who were granted anonymity in order to speak freely before an official announcement.

The decision forced the team to find a new base in the United States in a hurry, with training camp less than two weeks away.

In a statement, Raptors president Masai Ujiri wrote: “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 and on our home court at Scotiabank Arena. These conversations were productive, and we found strong support for the protocols we put forward. 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 had worked at finding a new location for months, even as they and the NBA tried to come up with medical protocols and public health safety measures that would have allowed them to play in Toronto. Tampa had been the most widely reported potential location for a while.

Time was of the essence. NBA camps are scheduled to open Dec. 1, and a truncated 72-game regular season starts Dec. 22.

The search encompassed a raft of issues.

“We’re trying to do what’s best for the organization,” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said this week. “So you can kind of go down the line. You know, what is first and foremost? The players. What does the practice facility look like? What would be the accommodations around the medical facilities, the medical treatment? Obviously 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.”

And there are human needs, too.

“I think at some point we’re asking people here to uproot their lives and go to a place that, you know, they may potentially be away from their families for six to seven months,” Webster said.

The Raptors were adamant that their first choice all along was to play in Toronto. They felt plans made along with the NBA would satisfy health safety concerns, especially considering the league’s success with running a “bubble” playoff season in the summer at Disney World.

“We want to be in Toronto,” Webster said this week. “We want to play here, but we are also realistic about the timing and respectful of the protocols Public Health has to go through, so it’s a little bit of both. It doesn’t necessarily affect our operations. I think we all know we’ll run a basketball team and the 72 games will get played, but (not knowing where is) a drain on personal decisions and families, which always looms large in this industry.”

With files from Robert Benzie and Bruce Arthur

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NFL Odds & Picks for Ravens vs. Steelers: Sharps Finding Betting Value in Wednesday Afternoon’s Spread – The Action Network

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Russell is leading contender to replace Hamilton for Sakhir GP – F1i.com

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Williams’ George Russell has emerged as the leading contender to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes for next weekend’s Sakhir GP according to multiple reports out of Bahrain.

Talks are apparently ongoing in Bahrain between Mercedes and Williams management to reach an agreement for the Grove-based outfit to release its driver for a one-off with the championship winning outfit following Hamilton’s unavailability after testing positive for COVID-19.

Should the negotiations reach a successful outcome, Williams reserve Jack Aitken, who has yet to race in F1 but who holds a super licence, is Russell’s most likely replacement.

If the talks are not successful, Mercedes is likely to rely on Stoffel Vandoorne to fill Hamilton’s seat, as the Belgian is the Brackley team’s official reserve and is race-ready having wrapped up his campaign in Formula E with the German manufacturer.

While racing for Williams, Russell remains contracted to Mercedes who backed the young Briton and 2018 Formula 2 champion during his formative years.

Williams is likely to demand a financial compensation from Mercedes for releasing its driver, but the prospect of lending Russell to the Black Arrows squad could entail some interesting marketing benefits for the team if the 22-year-old wins next weekend – hardly a far-fetched hypothesis – and then returns to Grove a Grand Prix victor.

Gallery: The beautiful wives and girlfriends of F1 drivers

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SIMMONS: Are Raptors being hypocrites in handling of Terence Davis? – Toronto Sun

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By definition, a person is found guilty of assault in the third degree in New York, if they intentionally or recklessly cause injury to another person or if they are criminally negligent with a weapon.

The Raptors waited a few days after the Davis arrest before making any comment at all. Their initial silence was uncomfortable. Then they released a rather innocuous statement, not really saying anything that mattered. In Webster’s availability on Tuesday he was asked a limited number of questions about the Davis situation, including whether he thought the team was acting hypocritically by bringing him back for his second season.

Webster’s answers weren’t exactly clear — with this proviso, his background is in basketball, not in social matters such as this.

He was clear, though, that in his mind the Raptors had done their due diligence on the matter, which is now in the hands of the NBA and the NBA Players’ Association. “We’ve done as much due diligence as we can,” he said. “That may feel a bit unsatisfying but we need to be respectful of the process.”

No one in Toronto seemed to care much about the process when Osuna won a World Series with the Astros. It wasn’t thought about as a lost opportunity. It was more like: who cares about Osuna anymore?

Most people seemed more pleased that he was no longer associated with Toronto or the Blue Jays.

It’s entirely possible the Raptors won’t play any games in Toronto this season, having been forced to move elsewhere as COVID-19 continues to play havoc with our lives and their lives. And Davis won’t have to worry about crossing the border with legal restrictions of any kind.

Potentially, Davis is another undrafted find for the Raptors, having scored 31 points and 20 points in games last February and having shown great energy and athleticism on the court. He has considerable talent. The basketball court works for him.

And that isn’t the court that matters right now. His next court date in New York is Dec. 11. Maybe then the Raptors will say something or do something that matters. Maybe then, maybe not.

ssimmons@postmedia.com

twitter.com/simmonssteve

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