By Jahmal Corner(REUTERS) – With his decision to join the Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Durant ended an era in Golden State while advancing a trend of the NBA’s elite players forging their own paths with new teams.Durant will now team up with fellow All Star Kyrie Irving, who will depart Boston after just two seasons, leaving behind a Warriors franchise he helped lead to three consecutive NBA Finals.Durant, 30, is expected to miss most if not all of next season while recuperating from a ruptured Achilles suffered during this month’s NBA Finals defeat by Toronto. On paper, Golden State had more to offer Durant than any other team. The Warriors could have rewarded Durant with a five-year, $221 million super max contract – far more than the $164 million he will receive from the Nets.They also provided the stability of a championship pedigree as Durant rehabs his injury. Golden State have played in the last five Finals and the presence of Stephen Curry and exceptional coaching and ownership offers promise of a competitive future. None of those factors were apparently more valuable than Durant’s freedom to choose his own path.And in that regard he is following something of a trend. LeBron James helped pioneer the way by leaving Cleveland to form a super team with Miami, returning to the Cavaliers following a four-year run with the Heat, before settling with the Los Angeles Lakers this past year.James’ new running mate, Anthony Davis, forced his way from the New Orleans Pelicans in order to join the Lakers. Even reigning NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard could soon be choosing a fresh destination over Toronto. Durant previously made a splash in free agency by moving from Oklahoma City to the Warriors three years ago. The decision will perhaps leave the Warriors with a question mark hanging over them as they enter the 2019-20 season.In response to Durant’s move, the team on Sunday acquired All Star guard D’Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade deal with the Nets that will send championship stalwart Andre Iguodala packing. With shooting guard Klay Thompson also missing considerable time with a knee injury, for the first time in a long time the Warriors may not be calling the shots in the new season.
On Saturday night in NBT Bank Stadium, the Syracuse Chiefs didn’t play. Instead, there was a pregame wedding, an eight-foot tall golden fork, salt potato pizza, potato sack races and taekwondo. All took place in the freshly named Tater Town, where the Chiefs changed their name to the Salt Potatoes, the Red Wings turned into the Plates and Jose “Mashed Potatoes” Marmolejos homered amid the quirkiness.Josh Shub-Seltzer | Staff PhotographerThere was a baseball game — called Duel for the Dishes — but it was just a sideshow. As the Salt Potatoes took batting practice, a couple stated their vows on the venue’s party deck.The wedding had been planned for this specific weekend. Katie Brown, a Syracuse native, had introduced her new husband, Jared Forst, to salt potatoes earlier in their relationship because the buttery delicacy is a staple of central New York. Forst hails from Ohio and had never experienced the side dish.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“He’s like addicted now,” the now-Katie Forst said.“It was kind of weird, the wedding thing,” Marmolejos “Mashed Potatoes” said. Like the rest of the Salt Potatoes, and the team itself, the outfielder had his name altered to a food for the game.The wedding took place beyond the right-field wall. Marmolejos warned them it wasn’t a safe spot.“I yelled at them, ‘Hey watch out, don’t get hit with a ball,’” Marmolejos recalled. “That was the first time I’ve seen that. That was kind of different.”Billy Heyen | Assistant Sports EditorAs game time approached and fans filed in, they had their first opportunity to take part in the starch-dedicated evening. Syracuse dished out bobbleheads, depicting a Salt Potato standing on the Plates logo, to the first 1,000 people in the stadium, in addition to season-ticket holders.One father and son pair received bobbleheads. But that’s not why they were early: The pair was in attendance to watch a younger brother perform in a pregame taekwondo demo. That meant they were walking around carrying three boxed bobbleheads. The older brother plans on keeping his saved in the box. It’s a collector’s item, after all. As the father held his bobbleheads, Master Pryor’s Taekwondo students aligned on the third-base side of the diamond. With music playing, they smashed boards with their hands and feet.That father and two sons grouping tries to make the half-hour drive to the ballpark from Palermo at least once a year. With his son performing martial arts on the field before the game, Saturday was the night.Brian Goodheart, from Phoenix, has never collected bobbleheads — but maybe the salt potato bobblehead, his first, might start a collection, he said. Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on August 27, 2018 at 11:55 pm Contact Billy: firstname.lastname@example.org | @Wheyen3 Goodheart can keep the bobblehead, but he couldn’t bring home the night’s biggest attraction: an eight-foot tall fork.The fork was available before and during the game for photos in the stadium’s main concourse. But minutes before first pitch, Syracuse general manager Jason Smorol walked out toward the mound with the fork in hand.Smorol called the ‘Dishes game the “single most important game in the history of minor league baseball.” In all, 6,221 fans celebrated what Smorol called “the most underrated, underappreciated side dish of all time.”And that’s why Smorol made sure the potato wouldn’t be forgotten, at least for one night.As was only fitting in Tater Town on Saturday, the first pitches were thrown with salt potatoes. The Forsts threw theirs together. They stood back-to-back on the mound and both fired strikes to Scooch, one of Syracuse’s mascots.Rochester began the “Plates” promotion last season in homage to the famed “Garbage Plate,” which originated in Rochester. The dish features macaroni salad, home fries, two hamburgers and meat sauce.Kennys Vargas is a first baseman and designated hitter for the Rochester Red Wings. Visible are the layers of a garbage plate, and the lettering “Plates” is across his chest.Chris David, from Rochester, is a super fan. His girlfriend lives in Fayetteville, so it was a multi-purpose trip down Interstate 90. He arrived at about 1 p.m., in time to make it to the Rochester team bus and have players sign his Plates flag.“Because they have this whole food rivalry thing, it’s pretty interesting and fun,” David said.Before the third inning of baseball got underway, potatoes raced potatoes.Three kids headed out to the third base line and picked up potato sacks. They stepped right in and hopped up and down the third-base side. They were cheered on by both of the usual Syracuse mascots, Scooch and Pops.A few innings later, the wedding party returned, most having changed out of their full ceremony garb. They played a variation of the hot potato game. Teams would form as pairs, and the women would lob potatoes over their shoulder for their partner to run down and catch in their potato sack.As Syracuse struggled with its bats to plate runs, fans did no better. Dizzy bat, a popular minor league gimmick, tasks children with standing over a baseball bat and put their forehead on the knob, pressed to the ground. Then, they spin around the bat 10 times. Naturally, they’re very dizzy, but in this variation, they were forced to run to pick up a potato sack.After wobbling to the potato sack, they hopped back toward their original spot next to the bats. While the kids struggled to jog to the potato sack, it seemed that dizziness affected hopping less than running — all contestants made it back to the finish line without any dramatic falls.In what seemed like the night’s secondary act, Marmolejos turned on a first-pitch fastball and sent it soaring toward the party deck in right field. It landed right where the wedding had taken place hours earlier.After the homer put Syracuse in the lead, 1-0, the Salt Potatoes’ Twitter account wrote a tweet that began “Spudnificent!!”. But the night was not to stay as such — Rochester came back to win, 3-1. With victory in hand, the Plates could now claim the night’s biggest prize.At the game’s conclusion, the Rochester Plates were granted the eight-foot tall Golden Fork. With Rochester general manager Dan Mason unable to attend, Grant Anderson was handed the fork. Anderson works as an on-field host for Rochester.He was joined in claiming the fork by two members of the Rochester coaching staff, manager Joel Skinner and pitching coach Stu Cliburn, and Salt Potatoes’ GM Smorol.On a night which featured salt potatoes, garlic parmesan salt potatoes, salt potato pizza and salt potato hot dogs on sale in the ballpark, fans were given a final perk free of charge: fireworks.Red, blue and gold illuminated the sky. Different sizes of burst and volume echoed through Tater Town. A common conclusion to a night at the ballpark. The fireworks could’ve been on any Saturday night — there were no salt potatoes.Photos by Staff Photographer Josh Shub-Seltzer Comments