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Ujiri: Raptors playing another season away 'would set us back five years'

Mark Blinch / National Basketball Association / Getty

Toronto Raptors vice-chairman and president Masai Ujiri believes a second successive season away from home would be a massive setback for the team.

COVID-19 border restrictions between Canada and the United States meant the Raptors had to play home games last season at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.

Ujiri, speaking to media Wednesday for the first time since being promoted to an expanded role, said the team can't afford another season away from Toronto.

"Our hope is we're playing at home. That's the goal for us," Ujiri said.

"Playing away set us back for a few years," he added. "Playing away another year would set us back five years."

The Ontario government has yet to give the Raptors approval to play home games at Scotiabank Arena for the 2021-22 season. The NBA will announce its complete schedule on Aug. 20.

Prior to the season in Tampa, Toronto completed the 2019-20 campaign in the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World in Florida. Ujiri said all that time away from home "was hard for some of them, if not all of them," but added these are "first world problems."

Ujiri also addressed a rift from last season between Pascal Siakam and head coach Nick Nurse, saying "everybody is in a better place." The executive added that he's aware of the criticism Siakam received following a comparatively underwhelming campaign that sparked trade speculation.

"Trust me, Pascal is a prideful man," Ujiri said. "Pascal is a Raptor, and he's going to play with us."

Ujiri also discussed Miami Heat newcomer Kyle Lowry, who he called "the best Raptor to ever play here," and the tampering investigation surrounding the six-time All-Star's move to South Beach.

"It's incredible that all these teams complete deals at 6:02," Ujiri joked. "I have no further comment ... that's my comment."

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