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Raptors start unusual journey in Tampa

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, centre, gestures while talking to team president Masai Ujiri as general manager Bobby Webster (left) looks on during training camp practice, Tuesday, October 1, 2019 at Laval University in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

The Toronto Raptors unusual journey to Tampa began on Tuesday. Will fans be chanting “We The South” instead of “We The North” this season?

When the team arrived at training camp at Saint Leo University, just north of Tampa, on the weekend, fans were already wearing shirts with the revamped phrase on it.

“We loved it!” Raptors GM Bobby Webster said on a media call on Tuesday. “We’re excited to be here and we look forward to developing a relationship with Tampa.”

Canada’s only NBA team had to relocate after the federal government denied their request to stay and play their home games in the country and with the temporary move, comes expenses.

Webster said they were discussing the possibility of asking for some of the funds from the NBA’s discretionary fund.

“As I understand the last time it was evoked for something like this was Hurricane Katrina when New Orleans went to Oklahoma City,” said Webster. “We are also respectful of the world COVID pandemic going on so it’s kind of doubly bad for finances on all sides. But it is something we are looking into.”

“When we are faced with different challenges or obstacles as an organization we thrive.” Webster added. “We are looking at it much more of a really unique experience for our team.”

The team spent five months in Florida last season when the team played in bubble-scenario at the ESPN complex in Disney World and will be taking the experience they had there to Tampa.

“I think you really understand the meaning of being part of a team,” Webster said. “Now it’s our collective health, our collective well-being, and so I think that sense of belonging and unity is really important for a time like this where it feels like we have each other’s back. And we’re all looking out for, you know, the greater good.”