If the Toronto Raptors are forced to relocate next season because of COVID-19 restrictions, the smartest answer could become reality: a move to Newark.
The Raptors have spoken to the operators of the Prudential Center about using their 19,500-seat arena, according to a source. It’s one of a few options for Masai Ujiri’s squad, and a preference for the NBA because of its close proximity to all of Toronto’s division foes.
The Raptors have also discussed playing in Tampa Bay or Nashville or as tenants in another NBA team’s arena, according to a source. Kansas City pitched its T-Mobile Center. Louisville was floated and reportedly shot down. There’s been speculation about the team moving over the border to Buffalo, just like the Toronto Blue Jays during the last MLB season. While some of those destinations offer a warmer climate, none can match the geographical sense of The Rock.
It’s about 15 miles from Barclays Center and MSG. Driving to the Sixers' home, Wells Fargo Center, takes about 90 minutes. Boston is 225 miles north. Washington D.C. is 220 miles south. With the certainty of a shortened season and hopes of keeping COVID-19 at bay, the NBA is reportedly discussing ways to limit travel next season. Increasing division games and holding baseball-like series are obvious solutions, and a Knicks-Nets-Raptors metro bubble could assist those efforts.
The Prudential Center, built in 2007, was already a stopgap home arena for an NBA franchise, hosting the Nets for two seasons just prior to their Brooklyn move in 2012. The building is home to Seton Hall basketball and the Devils of the NHL, but all its concerts were postponed. It should help the case that The Rock is owned and operated by Harris Blitzer Sports Entertainment, which also owns the Sixers and has an existing relationship with the Raptors and NBA.
Keep it in the NBA family.
Although Newark, which is currently experiencing a COVID surge, isn’t an ideal residence for NBA players and staff, the location offers opportunities to live in New York City, the North Jersey suburbs or those swanky Hudson River condos in Hoboken or Jersey City.
The Raptors, who won the 2019 title and should again be a top team in the Eastern Conference, obviously prefer to remain in Toronto but the U.S.-Canada border is closed indefinitely because of the pandemic. If they can’t navigate international travel, Newark is the best option for a temporary home.
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