Tom Brady led the Bucs to a Super Bowl win despite a knee injury.

The Raptors may be playing out the rest of the season in Tampa, Fla., but Kyle Lowry says that doesn’t change the fact that the team still plays for Toronto and Canada. The NBA team said Thursday it will complete its home schedule at Amalie Arena due to COVID-19 after initially announcing in November it would play half its home games in Tampa before making a decision on the second half of the season. “(Toronto’s) our home, that’s where we play, that’s our home city, the country we play for, at the end of the day, ‘Toronto Raptors’ is on the front of our jersey, we play for that,” Lowry said Thursday night. “We still know that the fans are supporting us the utmost that they can, we wish we were playing in front of those guys. It’s unfortunate that the world is in this situation but as professionals, we have to do our job. We would love to be home, we would love to be in front of our fans and it just sucks that we can’t be, but the connection is still there.” The Raptors say the decision was made because of border restrictions and public safety measures in Canada. Coach Nick Nurse said in some ways playing out the season in Tampa makes life easier. “I think that it took us a while to get settled in, I think to pick up shop and go back and try to re-settle in, kinda like you would at the start of the fall, you usually get guys in early so they can get settled in before training camp started,” Nurse said from Boston, ahead of the Raptors’ game versus the Celtics. “We’re just kind of getting settled in, we might as well finish it out now. “Hope we can get back (to Toronto) and start next season from Day 1.” The lone NBA team from outside the U.S., the Raptors have joined several Canadian counterparts in having to play south of the border during the pandemic. Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays (Buffalo, N.Y.) and Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC (East Hartford, Conn.), CF Montreal (Harrison, N.J.) and Vancouver Whitecaps (Portland) relocated for partial or full seasons in 2020. Major League Rugby’s Toronto Arrows will start their 2021 season in Marietta, Ga. “Obviously we want to be in Toronto,” Pascal Siakam said. “We understand whats happening. We want to keep everyone safe and respect the rules. Its tough; 2020, I think the year taught us that weve got to be ready for anything. “Were going to miss the Toronto fans. Thats the type of year its been. Weve just got to stick with it and adapt. A schedule release for the second half of the season is expected in the coming days. Florida has been really welcoming to us and were so grateful for the hospitality weve found in Tampa and at Amalie were living in a city of champions, and we intend to carry on the tradition of winning for our new friends and fans here, Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a statement. But home is where the heart is, and our hearts are in Toronto. We think often of our fans, of our Scotiabank Arena family, and all those we are missing back home, and we cant wait until we can all be together again. The Raptors are 6-5 in their home building this season, which theyre sharing with the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa also has the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers and the Rays played in the World Series last season. There have been reports the Blue Jays are considering playing home games in nearby Dunedin, Fla., site of their spring-training complex, this season. The Raptors’ decision is hardly unexpected given the state of the pandemic in the U.S. and Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that starting next week any non-essential travellers arriving in Canada by land will need to show a negative PCR-based COVID-19 test or face a fine if they dont have one. That wouldnt be an issue for NBA teams; travelling parties are tested daily, players multiple times a day. The bigger issue is logistics. The land border already remains closed to non-essential travellers who are not Canadian citizens; Canada requires those entering the country to isolate for 14 days, which wouldnt be feasible for NBA teams, and the Canadian government has also strongly discouraged non-essential travel for any reason. Toronto made the move south last fall, knowing Thursday’s decision was a real possibility. The Raptors tried to simulate the comforts the team has at home in Toronto, at least as much as possible. We The North the team motto signage is everywhere in the hotel that the Raptors are using as a practice facility in Tampa, from the elevator doors to the ballroom wall behind one of the baskets. The court that the Raptors use for games was shipped down from Toronto. And theres a 2019 world championship banner swaying from the rafters, alongside the Lightnings retired jerseys for Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, at the same end of the court as the Raptors bench. They did a great job,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said earlier this season. With files from The Associated Press. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 11, 2021. The Canadian Press