Sports

NBA: Toronto Raptors to play preseason game in Vancouver; Could B.C. support another NBA team?

Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson share a moment during the first round of last season
Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson share a moment during the first round of last season's NBA Playoffs. The Raptors lost in seven games to the Brooklyn Nets, in Toronto's first postseason appearance since 2008.
— image credit: The Canadian Press

The now-trendy Toronto Raptors are bringing their playoff team to Vancouver.

On October 5, the Raptors will play a preseason game in B.C.'s Rogers Arena against the Sacramento Kings. Tickets will go on sale on June 14, according to Team 1040.

The Raptors have played 11 games outside of Toronto since the team's inaugural season in 1995, as a part of the NBA's Canada Series. Toronto played its only game in Vancouver in 2010, in a lopsided 129-78 loss to the Phoenix Suns and then-point guard Steve Nash, who's from Victoria, B.C.

The Raptors will also be playing in Montreal on October 24, at the Bell Centre against the New York Knicks.

"We are honoured to play host to the Kings and Knicks as part of NBA Canada Series," said Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri. "Coming off an exciting 2013-14 season, we look forward to continuing to build our fan base across Canada."

Last season, Toronto surged to a third seed in the Eastern Conference and the team's first postseason since 2008, when they lost to the Orlando Magic in six games. In 2014, the Raptors pushed Brooklyn to the brink but ultimately feel to the older Nets in seven games, losing the finale in Toronto.

The team also had several players put up breakthrough seasons, such as Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, and DeMar DeRozan. Head coach Dwane Casey was also honoured for his season the sidelines, his third with Toronto, with a contract extension through 2017.

Could Vancouver get another NBA team?

Vancouver lost its only-ever NBA franchise in 2001, when the Grizzlies left for Memphis after six terrible seasons. The Grizzlies' time in Vancouver was marked by tumultuous ownership and an awful on-court product, with a franchise that never once made the playoffs.

Vancouver's best season, record-wise, was its last in the NBA – the team managed a paltry 23-59 record and a .280 winning percentage, and attendance dropped to a low of 13,737 people on average.

But next year's preseason game will no doubt lead to talk about the city perhaps getting another shot at an NBA franchise.

On Monday, a report from The Conference Board of Canada says it believes Vancouver could support another team, despite the failures of its only experiment with one.

"Although Vancouver's previous basketball experience ended with the Grizzlies franchise moving to Memphis and some ill-will in the city toward the National Basketball Association (NBA), the market conditions exist for another franchise to be successful," said Glen Hodgson, Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist with the Conference Board, in its release.

"With Vancouver's steady rise in population, high income levels, and a strong corporate presence, the NBA could return one day, especially if the Canadian dollar remains strong."

The report – part of a larger piece titled Power Play: The Business Economics of Pro Sports – credits Vancouver for its growing population and its stable financial situation, also saying that the Canadian dollar and the Canadian commercial environment has improved greatly since the mid-to-late 90's.

"By 2035, with a projected population of 3.5 million, the Vancouver market would be large enough to sustain a franchise in each of the NHL, NBA, Major League Soccer, and the Canadian Football League," reads an excerpt from Power Play, although the viability of a second NHL team or professional baseball is unrealistic, it says.

"Even a market of that size, however, would not be likely to maintain support for a Major League Baseball franchise, or second NHL team in the region."

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.