It wouldn't be much of a surprise to see ushers at Madison Square Garden handing out jerseys to each of the fans in attendance Tuesday. They'd have the number 23 on them and the name James on the back, giving Knick fans a chance to join in the pursuit of LeBron James's services starting in the 2010-11 season. Giving James a taste of what it would be like to have New York City as his support system couldn't hurt.
Okay, so that's probably a violation of NBA rules against tampering, but it wouldn't be a shock to see James get some hearty encouragement from the assembled masses on Tuesday night. In a happenstance that makes the league's scheduler look like Nostradamus, James visits the Garden days after the Knicks traded Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford to begin clearing cap space they'd like to use for James. Al Harrington's Knick debut won't be the reason the Garden is buzzing.
It's never too early to start the courting process. To get around any tampering regulations, you just need to be creative. Have the public address announcer read a series of New York facts to educate the crowd. If the facts have particular interest to young, famous and wealthy basketball stars all the better. Here's a suggestion:
"Did you know that for every resident of Cleveland there are four Brazilian models living in New York City?"
We already know LeBron's a Yankees fan, and he was effusive about playing in the Garden after he dropped 50 on the Knicks last season. You'll hear about that on each of his four visits to the city over the next two seasons, and his every coy comment about his future will be scrutinized for coded messages that he's coming to New York. And so begins the longest free agent recruitement process in the history of sports.