Toronto Raptors to play in Tampa, not KC, during upcoming season

Fred VanVleet Raptors contract

The image of VanVleet lying on the floor in Toronto's Game 4 win of the Finals at Golden State, his front tooth chipped, blood running down his cheek, will be one of the most memorable of the thrilling run.Last season, he started alongside Kyle Lowry and averaged 17.6 points and 6.6 assists while shooting 39 per cent from three on almost seven attempts a game.He's a workhorse on defence, leading the National Basketball Association in deflections.

The 26-year-old native of Rockford, Ill. was by far Toronto's off-season priority and locking him up for four years would set the Raptors up for a seamless transition at point guard from Kyle Lowry, who has one year left on his contract, to VanVleet, who is nearly a decade younger.

Lowry has mentored VanVleet for all four seasons he's been in the league, forming one of the NBA's best backcourts this past season.

Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said this week that signing VanVleet was the top priority for the team going into a crucial, shortened off-season.

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Kansas City officials and congressional leaders from Kansas and Missouri had sought to bring the Raptors to Kansas City, offering the downtown T-Mobile Center as a temporary home for the team during the pandemic.

Coach Nick Nurse rewarded VanVleet's growth by starting him for all 54 of his regular-season appearances in 2019-20.

The agreement, initially reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic, includes a player option in the fourth year. VanVleet's four-year deal will run through the 2023-24 campaign, in parallel with the extension that Pascal Siakam inked with the team last year. The league's other 15 teams will all go there once. Reportedly, Nashville, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale are under consideration if it comes to that. They will have the so-called "mid-level" salary-cap exception of about $9.2 million to offer free agents to fill out the team.

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