The Toronto Raptors have an NBA championship to defend, a very long stay at the Disney complex awaiting them and plenty of unanswered questions on how the restart of the season will work.
As the NBA’s lone Canadian team, there’s an added complexity: The U.S. border.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse said Tuesday that his team is still working through various scenarios for having workouts before heading to Disney World near Orlando, Florida along with 21 other teams next month for the restart of the season. Teams are expected at Disney around July 7, though the expectation is that the league will permit practices before that date.
“We haven’t really made a final decision on it on a date to reconvene, or where we’re going, or any of that kind of stuff yet,” Nurse said in a call with Toronto media. “We’ve made plans on both sides of the border, just for doing it as safe as possible. It’s kind of our first and foremost priority — then maybe as quickly as possible, too.”
For the Raptors, the issue of how to proceed largely stems from Canadian government regulations currently in place that call for a 14-day quarantine for people returning to Canada. Some Raptors players are in Toronto right now; some are in the U.S.
Getting those players from Canada — or other countries — into the U.S. is a process streamlined somewhat by an order signed last month by Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf, one that provided the exemption for professional athletes from rules put in place during the pandemic that would have otherwise barred their entry into the U.S.
“We’ve still got a few options that we’re looking at,” Nurse said.
The NBA hasn’t released many details of the plan for how things will work at Disney yet, with many items still being worked out in talks with the National Basketball Players Association and other entities. What is known, however, is a tentative schedule where teams arrive in early July, play begins in late July and Game 7 of the NBA Finals could be as late as Oct. 12.
That means a team, if it makes the title series, could spend nearly 100 days at Disney before going home. And if the Raptors choose to have a training camp in the U.S. beforehand, that would obviously add a few more days to their away-from-home total.
Nurse said he thinks the NBA is giving teams enough time to get ready between practice and the likelihood of a couple of scrimmages before the games — seeding games, the NBA is calling them, though they will factor into the regular season standings — finally begin again. Teams have not played since the NBA suspended the season March 11 because of coronavirus concerns.
“We still don’t quite have all the information, but that’s getting closer,” Nurse said. “Day by day, it gets closer, and then we’ll make a final decision. We’ll have to do a lot of things, as you guys might guess. We’ll have to do some testing right away. Before we make any moves, we’ll have to get a lot of things in place.”