“He must be cheered during player introductions, cheered if he scores 50 points, cheered if he dunks on Nate Robinson, cheered if he embarrasses the Knicks, cheered if he beats them at the buzzer,” insists Newsday’s Shaun Powell, and he’s not talking about Delonte West.  The Cablevision-employed columnist says of the Cavaliers’ visit to MSG this evening, “This game must become a surreal scene, unlike any seen before in the NBA. If Knicks fans know better, and we bet they do, they must violate every law in the fan handbook. They should openly and aggressively root for the best player on the other team every time he touches the ball, every time he does anything with it.”  How long before Powell receives a death threat candygram from Amar Panchmatia?

The romancing of LeBron must begin tonight, and it must be a long and torrid courtship. New York basketball fans, the smartest in the world, know the deal. They know what’s at stake after the 2009-10 season, when he can opt out of his contract. They know getting LeBron to leave Cleveland, the only place he’s ever known, won’t be easy. They know it’ll take more than money. They know New York must step out of character and show that it ain’t too proud to beg.

What Walsh did Friday by making two trades and freeing up roughly $27 million in cap space for 2010 was genius. No matter what the Knicks do between now and April, the season already is a success because the goal was met. Walsh traded Zach Randolph just in time, before Randolph fell into a slump or, even worse, got into off-court trouble. By sending Jamal Crawford packing, Walsh made it possible to sign not one but two free agents two summers from now.

Really, who does LeBron want for a GM, Walsh or the one he has in Cleveland, Danny Ferry?

The budget will allow LeBron to hand-pick his very own Scottie Pippen. He can recruit Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire to New York. Maybe even Dwyane Wade. You think he can recruit any of those guys to Cleveland?

James will need convincing. Plenty of it. That must begin tonight, when the fans can show a superstar what it’s like to play in New York even if you still belong to someone else.