tampa bay raptors

The Toronto Raptors will hold practices in a Tampa Bay hotel ballroom this season

Strange problems call for strange solutions, and it's been an exceedingly strange year for the Toronto Raptors.

Last year at this time, the reigning NBA champions were well into yet another solid season, crushing their competitors at home games in front of hometown heroes like Shawn Mendes and Drake.

By mid-December, the team had staged its biggest comeback in franchise history, beating the Dallas Mavericks 110-107 with a whopping 47 fourth quarter points to set a new record and get fans riled up over the prospect of a back-to-back 'ship.

Then, COVID-19 hit, bringing the regular season to an abrupt halt. The Raptors wound up finishing their season at Walt Disney World Resort inside a COVID-controlled "NBA bubble" alongside the rest of the league.

Fans and Raptors brass alike were hopeful that the team could start the 2020-2021 season in Toronto, but Canada's federal government forbade it due to cross-border quarantine rules.

So, the Toronto Raptors will be based in Tampa Bay, Florida, when the 2020-2021 regular season kicks off on December 22.

After a two-week training camp at St. Leo University, just north of Tampa, the Raptors will play their first home game at the city's Amalie Arena (home of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning.)

Their practice facility, on the other hand, will be inside what Sportsnet describes as "a reconfigured hotel ballroom" across the street.

That's right, a hotel ballroom — the kind of space usually reserved for weddings, galas, conferences and, theoretically, balls... not shootarounds among NBA All-Stars.

But the Raps will make it work, as they always do, even in the absence of recently-departed superstars Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.

According to Postmedia, the Raptors will take over two vacant ballrooms in Tampa's not-yet-opened JW Marriott Tampa Water Street hotel and "make it look and feel as much like the Raptors' own OVO Centre here in Toronto."

Walls are being erected to give staff and coaches individual office space, and every effort will reportedly be made "to bring everything they have in their practice court in Toronto to Tampa."

"I can only say this: I know I'd rather be in Toronto, but I'm not," said award-winning coach Nick Nurse during a press call on Wednesday. "And now I'm going to make the best of it here.

"There's a lot of things surrounding what's happening and we're going to do our best to focus in on just becoming the best basketball team we can become. And we do that with just accepting, here's where we are."

When asked about what it will be like to practice in a literal ballroom, Raptors Guard Norman Powell said the following: "It's going to be weird. But what isn't weird these days?"

Lead photo by

JW Marriott Tampa Water Street

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