LeBron James used All-Star weekend to put the Los Angeles Lakers on notice

The Los Angeles Lakers might have to trade for LeBron James this summer.

James has clearly been offended by Lakers' management twice over the past two weeks. First when it elected not to make a deal before the Feb. 10 trade deadline after he had both publicly and privately prodded for something. More accurately, he expected it. And second when Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka stepped over the line when he announced James was on board with the status quo; a source told ESPN there was no prior sign-off from James.

He has been hammering the team's knuckles with rounds of trademark passive-aggressive maneuvers since, both on social media and in news conferences. Then he went aggressive-aggressive during All-Star Weekend in an interview with The Athletic in which he dropped lighter fluid on a previously bubbling concept that he might make one last return to the Cleveland Cavaliers before he retires.

Regardless of how James, 37, might try to shape those quotes going forward -- he was careful to qualify them to a degree -- he is a master media operator who, while standing in Cleveland, was speaking to a reporter he knows well. He knew exactly what he was doing.

Same as he was doing last week, in the wake of the trade deadline inaction, when he spoke about how his recent knee injury would likely bother him the rest of the season. The knee surely is an issue, but James was also laying the groundwork to give himself options depending on how the rest of the season plays out for the Lakers (27-31).

What James is doing is likely aimed at one primary goal: Force the Lakers into major action this summer. He tried to do it nicely and now he's doing it harshly.