LeBron James and the Lakers are heading for a divorce.

Or, like with so many other relationships that have teetered on the brink of a break-up, they will find a way to reconcile.

Whichever way this goes, the events of the past week have proven something that has often been overlooked in the first four years of LeBron’s Lakers tenure: The gift of his presence is not without an expiration date.

This was always made abundantly clear to his past employers. When he signed a four-year contract with the Lakers in 2018, James bucked his tradition of signing one-year deals in Cleveland, repeatedly leveraging his own looming free agency to keep the pressure on Cavaliers brass.
There has never been that kind of urgency with the Lakers.

Maybe it was the fact that he already owned two mansions in L.A. Or the fact his production company was in the process of becoming a major player in Hollywood. Or that no one knew he would be playing at a league-altering level at age 37.

Whatever the reason, the Lakers appear to have taken for granted that whenever James decided to sail off into the sunset, he would take Sunset Boulevard to get there.

And as a likely result of that, there have been far more wasted years, including this 27-31 season, than there ever were in Cleveland and Miami.

That illusion of permanence has now been shattered, thanks not only to a series of passive-aggressive missives from James that make it clear he was frustrated by the Lakers inaction at the trade deadline, but also, in a conversation with The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd, entertaining the prospect of returning to Cleveland and explicitly stating his final year will be spent playing alongside his son — wherever that may be.

This has to all come as a shock to the Lakers and especially their vice president of basketball operations, Rob Pelinka, who has repeatedly yielded to James and the appropriately-named Klutch Sports Group that represents him.

Why appropriate?