Raptors Begin Their Stay in Tampa

The Toronto Raptors are beginning their stay in Tampa as players and coaches are growing accustomed to their new life in Florida
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Why Tampa?

It was almost a comical question for Toronto Raptors general manager Bobby Webster who sat in sunny Tampa while snow flurries fell in Toronto.

"Having some Vitamin D I think is a boost not just for the players," Webster said with a chuckle, adding later that the lack of a state income tax helped too.

Ultimately the decision was a tough one for the Raptors organization. They looked at multiple different options but settled on Tampa and Amalie Arena because of the facilities the city could provide.

Now, the organization is looking to become ingrained in the community for the time being. They've even taken a liking to the WeTheSouth slogan adopted by some Floridians.

"We love it," Webster said. "We saw some of it as soon as we announced, and we’re ready to dive into this."

RAPTORS ROSTER

The Raptors released their 20-man roster for training camp Tuesday afternoon.

The list included many new faces, especially in the frontcourt where Toronto has almost entirely rebuilt its centre rotation from last year, bringing in Aron Baynes and Alex Len to replace Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol.

Webster said he's been following Baynes since Baynes was playing at Washington State and watched him closely during the 2014 World Cup Championships. 

"his ability to continue to get better, physicality, toughness, wants to win, plays the right way, that’s something we’ve eyed for a while," Webster said. 

As for Len, the Raptors have been eyeing him since his days at Maryland that earned him the fifth overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft. Though he's never quite lived up to those expectations, the Raptors feel a fresh start could help him this season.

"We thought putting him in the situation here with our development program may look and feel a little different than the places he’s been and hopefully as a result he can maximize his enormous talent with us," Webster said.

DEVELOPMENT

As for developing that talent, Webster said he isn’t concerned that a disrupted offseason will stunt the growth of the Raptors young core. 

"[Development is] a huge part of how we built this team dating back to our first couple of years here and giving people opportunity, whether it’s going from the third team to the second team or second team to the first team," Webster said. "I think we got back to a little bit of that this offseason."

The bigger concern for Webster is making sure Raptors players are rested and rehabilitated after a truncated offseason, especially heading into a shortened season with more back-to-backs than usual.

G-LEAGUE

The Raptors 905 will indeed play a season this year, Webster said, though it's unclear where they'll play and when the season will start.