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Ujiri hopes Raptors can play in Toronto as COVID-19 cases spike

A woman wearing a mask pulls her suitcase in front of Scotiabank Arena where both the Raptors and Maple Leafs play in Toronto on Thursday, March 12, 2020. Toronto and Edmonton are on the verge of being picked as hub cities for the NHL's resumption of play, according to multiple reports. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO — Raptors president Masai Ujiri says he hopes his team will play the next NBA season at Scotiabank Arena, despite rising COVID-19 cases both in Toronto and in the United States.

Speaking Thursday morning on CBC Radio’s “The Current,” Ujiri said he was “sensitive” to the pandemic and understood the difficulties of playing the upcoming season in Toronto. The international border with the United States remains closed to non-essential travel, and a mandatory 14-day quarantine is in effect for those entering Canada.

Read more: NBA sets Dec. 22 start date for new 72-game season as coronavirus poses challenges

Ujiri, however, spoke of Toronto’s “passion” for the Raptors, and said his team playing in the community could be “therapeutic.”

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Ujiri said while the Raptors have several options in the U.S., he would rather not uproot his team.

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“We don’t want to take our team to another city, carry families, carry workers, carry other people to another place,” Ujiri said. “Let us learn here, let us figure it out here.”

Read more: Ontario reports more than 1,500 new coronavirus cases, breaking another single-day record

Ujiri’s comments come as Ontario and Toronto contend with a significant spike in COVID-19 cases.

Ontario saw a record number of cases for a third straight day Thursday with 1,500 new infections. Toronto had 472 of those cases.

The United States, where the Raptors would travel for away games, reported more than 145,000 cases on Wednesday.

Read more: Rick Zamperin: The Kansas City Raptors? It would be fun to see

The NBA saw its 2019-20 season pause in March due to the spread of COVID-19. It resumed July 30 at a sealed-off “bubble” complex at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla.

The NBA plans to start the 2020-21 season Dec. 22, with training camps opening Dec. 1.

Earlier this year, Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays were denied permission to play their games at home and relocated temporarily to Buffalo, N.Y.

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The 2019-20 NHL season also paused in March before continuing in the hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton.