Odom Still Absent; What's The Mavs Hope?

Lamar Odom's dad was, like, dying on Wednesday ... Er, wait. It was a stomach virus that was cleared up by Friday. ... Um, wait. L.O. still isn't back at Mavs HQ on Monday, six days after his excused absence from work? ‘The hope,' coach Carlisle says, ‘is that he will join us soon.' Er, um, wait again. Is it? At this point, is that really the hope?

I will continue to exercise some restraint regarding the odd case of Lamar Odom, who ditched the Dallas Mavericks last Wednesday morning hours before his new team was to play his old team, the Lakers.

The reason given for his emergency departure? None, beyond the vague "family matters'' excuse.

We all would like the right to mourn in our own way and our own time. Except ... what is it, exactly, that Odom is mourning?

Only two days after Lamar's emergency depature did TMZ inform us, via a video visit with Lamar's dad, that the reason the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year jetted to LA was due to concern for Dad's health. What was that "family matter'' that caused Lamar Odom to jet to LA instead of playing against the Lakers last week?

Pops isn't dying. His dad had a stomach virus, as Dad Odom explains on camera.

Um ... oh.

I have said this before and I think it's fair: I put the kibosh on sarcasm as best I could last Wednesday, when L.O.'s absence was announced. Yes, his behavior is unusual and yes, his commitment is worthy of question.

And the questions continue because Lamar wasn't back at practice Monday to begin the second half of the season playing for the very, very patience defending champs.

On Monday morning, I played in print with an admittedly-speculative timetable for the odd events of last Wednesday: Odom missed the morning pre-Lakers shootaround. Why? Presumably because the phone call from his father in LA preceded the workout, causing Lamar to jet to the West Coast. When did doctors intervene to determine that Dad only had a tummy ache? Did the diagnosis happen quickly enough for Lamar to U-turn back to Dallas? Could Lamar's father -- with whom he has historically had a strained relationship due in part to his father's problems with addiction – be playing some sort of manipulative game here?

Or, now that it's six days later, maybe the doctors goofed? And Dad Odom is truly very ill? Now comes speculation from LA that Odom's head and heart aren't into basketball. That it's not Dad pulling a Fred Sanford ("I'm comin', Elizabeth! This is the big one!) but that it's son, troubled by his non-basketball life, wanting out. That maybe a buyout and retirement is looming.

Is it OK to joke about this situation? I dunno. What the hell is this situation?

Is there a problem inside the Odom/Kardashian family? I dunno. Twenty minutes before I published this story at 7:45, Lamar's wife Khloe's last three tweets were about Adam Lambert, a giraffe and cupcakes.

Two sources close to Odom told me last week that Lamar is in constant need of affirmation, that he basically requites daily verbal and physical and emotional hugs from everyone around him. God knows Cuban, Donnie and Carlisle have been at their most huggable for Odom since acquiring him at the start of this season for a bag of magic beans.

The plan was to rely on Odom's championship pedigree to help Dallas chase another ring – and then to cut him and his $8.2 million contract loose this summer, leaving the Mavs with only a $2.4 mil cap commitment … thus creating more room for the pursuit of Dwight and Deron.

I now know for a fact that Odom was late to the realization of the Mavs' plan … and that it contributed to what all around him call a "funk'' that has made him ineffective for Dallas this year. The TV show, the Kardashian love, the W Hotel suite, the $8.2 mil salary, the chance for another title … maybe it's not enough to make Lamar Odom happy.

Or heck, maybe Dad really is sick. Or maybe another friend or family member has taken ill. Or maybe Lamar himself is under the weather in any number of possible ways.

It would be helpful if answers were forthcoming, but the disrespect for the paying customer continues here as Mavs fans remain in the dark about the present and future of their erstwhile star. Remember, if not for TMZ's roving cameras finding Dad Odom strolling down the avenue, we still wouldn't know if anybody was sick or well or dead or alive.

Nobody wishes ill on Lamar Odom. In our dealings with him, he seems like a lovely and thoughtful man. But as he remains absent due to some mystery mourning, Roddy Beaubois returned to Mavs practice on Monday after spending the weekend burying his father.

So fate offers us a vivid compare-and-contrast.

We have a very real tragedy and a picture of how it is being dealt with by the kid Roddy Beaubous.

And then we have Lamar Odom.

Due to all that, I'm not convinced that Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is correct when he says, "The hope is that he'll join us soon.''

I'm not certain that's really the best thing at all.

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