Raptors’ virus cluster ‘bound to happen’

Raptors’ virus cluster ‘bound to happen’

NEW YORK • Three unnamed members of the Toronto Raptors have tested positive for Covid-19 during the league-mandated testing period before training camp, the National Basketball Association (NBA) team said on Monday.

The Raptors, who last year became the first Canadian team to win the championship, did not identify the individuals but said all three were in quarantine and away from the rest of the organisation.

“Adherence to protocols, follow-up testing and contact tracing has so far revealed no spread to other members of the Raptors organisation,” the team said.

They also cancelled media access to head coach Nick Nurse and All-Star guard Kyle Lowry.

Many are expecting a spike in Covid-19 cases this season with the NBA, which begins on Dec 22, reverting to its usual home and away format instead of the bubble in Orlando, Florida, last term.

Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said that the cluster was “bound to happen”.

“It’s a logistical challenge, it’s a health challenge, it’s a human challenge that we’re all going through,” he told The Toronto Star newspaper. “It’s constantly on our mind. At the same time, we’re trying to prepare for an NBA season.”

The Raptors will start the season based in Tampa, Florida, due to travel restrictions imposed by the Canadian government. They will host the New Orleans Pelicans on Dec 23 in their first game.

Apart from the health risks, the pandemic has also wreaked havoc on teams’ finances.

The start of next season will be a closed-door affair, as was the case when the league resumed in July following a four-month hiatus.

With ticket sales making up 40 per cent of revenue, the league is planning to dole out US$30 million (S$40 million) per team, a US$900 million total, to aid with liquidity issues, Sports Business Journal reported on Monday.

It’s a logistical challenge, it’s a health challenge, it’s a human challenge that we’re all going through.

BOBBY WEBSTER, Toronto general manager, on the Covid-19 outbreak.

The money has been raised from notes issued by the NBA in the private placement market, and while the league will pay it back via “general collective league sources”, it is unclear what the interest rate will be.

According to ESPN, the NBA’s revenue fell by 10 per cent to US$8.3 billion for the 2019-20 season because of the crisis. REUTERS