The Toronto Raptors’ 26th season is set to begin under unprecedented circumstances as they will be playing in a home away from home.
Home games in Tampa. Strict COVID-19 policy. No Marc Gasol. No Serge Ibaka. There’s always some alterations made from year to year, but this season of Toronto Raptors basketball will truly resemble no other.
But, due to said strict policy and the slick negotiating that took place to secure the team a home, the Raptors (barring any other setbacks) will take the floor again in 2020, and that is something we can all appreciate. We might be entering the darkest days of the pandemic, but there will be plenty of basketball to keep you entertained. Here are five games to mark on your calendar.
1. New Orleans Pelicans at Raptors – Dec. 23, 2020
This is must-see TV for every Raptors fan. Serving as the team’s first competitive game back since their heartbreaking playoff exit at the hands of the Boston Celtics, the Raptors’ opener again the New Orleans Pelicans gives Toronto a chance to set the tone for the season.
This game will also offer fans a glimpse of the regular season atmosphere at Amalie Arena. Usually solely occupied by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the winter month, the building will have a new tenant this year.
A rematch of last year’s season opener, when 20,787 jammed into Scotiabank Arena to watch the Raptors get their championship rings, the Pelicans pose a unique challenge. Brandon Ingram was a revelation last year, earning himself a massive 5-year, $158 million extension.
With a rested Zion Williamson and the passing prowess of Lonzo Ball in tow, the Pels are entering their competitive window, and could be a fringe playoff team in the loaded Western Conference.
Simply put, they’re the perfect opener; a team that is hungry to win now, but not in contention for a title.