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Nothing has gone according to plan since the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe and the NBA has been no exception. Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet recently criticized the NBA for how it has prioritized money and business ‘on every level’ during this 2020-2021 season.
VanVleet also mentioned that he can’t complain because this of course was the option the players and owners agreed upon. But in VanVleet’s defence, it’s getting hard to turn a blind eye on how this rushed and condensed season has negatively affected the NBA as a whole, especially the Raptors.
You can’t ignore the fact that every team in the NBA has played on their usual home court except for the Raptors. Restrictions from the Canadian government forced the Raptors to relocate from Toronto to Tampa for the entire 2020-2021 season and it’s been a challenge.
After the Raptors got off to a shaky 1-5 start to the season, VanVleet acknowledged that playing away from their home of Toronto was a difficult situation they would have to work through.
The Raps are now 15-15 on their ‘home’ floor in Tampa this season after a solid win against the Brooklyn Nets last night. They seem to be getting more and more comfortable with their new surroundings as the season has gone along, even though there has been limited fan attendance.
Every team in the league has had to deal with the reality of not being able to host a full capacity crowd like old times. Not only are the Raptors missing their home arena, but they are also missing the most unique fan base and atmosphere in the NBA.
Injuries and health concerns
There were only 71 days in between the conclusion of the NBA Finals in mid-October and the start of the 2020-2021 NBA season on December 22nd. This was of course the shortest offseason in the history of the NBA, and the condensed schedule has put a real strain on its players this year.
LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Anthony Davis are just some of the big names that have missed several games this season while dealing with significant injuries.
The Raptors of course have had their fair share of injury struggles this year. The core group of Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam have all missed a significant amount of games this season. The Raptors rested all of those key players recently when they faced the San Antonio Spurs and the NBA fined them for improper injury reporting.
Clearly, the NBA isn’t taking it easy on the Raptors. The safety of the players has been sacrificed this season which has led to lots of injuries. But the other major issue has been the league’s confusing COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Earlier this season the Raptors dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak amongst the team’s players and coaches. Toronto was still forced to play during a seven-game stretch where they were without three of their five starters.
Despite all the challenges the Raptors have faced this season, they seem to be finding their stride again. Toronto has won their last four straight games, tying their longest win streak this season.
With their key players returning to the lineup in last night’s win over the Nets, there is still reason for optimism in the Raptors playoff hopes. Even with a record of 25-34 they still have a chance at one of the last two play-in spots with just 13 games remaining in the regular season.