The long basketball prayer line for the lost Lamar Odom

DALLAS — As it regards the alleged breakup of Lamar Odom’s marriage, the alleged 72-hours of Lamar Odom’s disappearance and the alleged crack addiction that might be the foundation of it all, I am about as surprised as I am sympathetic.

Odom, once a star with the Lakers before joining the Mavericks in 2011 and almost instantly becoming the most unproductively toxic player in that franchise’s history, is being defending by wife Khloe Kardashian, who tweets that she “Won’t let people talk sh*t about her family.”

She doesn’t seem to understand that when Mavs fans “talk sh*t” about Lamar Odom, that’s the nice part of what they’re saying.

Laugh at or ignore TMZ, if you wish, when it is reporting “exclusives” about sports even as it is clear that nobody employed by TMZ knows whether a basketball is pumped or stuffed. But when it comes to the Kardashians, TMZ is the unmatched where-bones-are-buried authority. So a report of Lamar Odom having gone missing for 72 hours while embroiled in a breakup with his Kardashian wife and while allegedly burying himself with his heavy two-year-long drug addiction is not to be scoffed at.

A two-year addiction?

That would explain a great deal, as that time period obviously overlaps into the darkest personnel decision in the star-crossed history of the Mavs.

Doesn’t the NBA test for such things? (Especially if pot-smoker Odom is already red-flagged?) How did Dallas not know about this when it traded for him following its title season? Did the Lakers know, and thus their motivation for giving him away?

This is a tragedy waiting to happen for Odom. Way down the list of importance — but on it nevertheless: This is an ongoing embarrassment for everyone who has ever been conned by him. The Lakers and the Clippers, maybe. The Mavs for certain. His family, of course. Yours truly, no doubt.

During his partial season here, Odom told stories that were meant to explain his erratic behavior, his lack of commitment to punctuality and his lethargic habits on the court.

Some of the tales are completely true, LINK and are detailed here in a story I did as a result of a lengthy one-on-one interview with Odom. http://mavericks.scout.com/2/1170928.html  LINK The death of his baby is among the many horrors that burden him.

But some of the tales are less than true. There was lots of mumbled, whispered explanation that was really just existential horse piss. His “excused absence” from the Mavs that season (as opposed to all the unexcused slip-ups) was NOT due to his drug-addled father suffering from a “stomach virus,” as Odom made certain was widely reported.

The truth about his father’s illness is something I discussed with Odom. I relayed to him the details I’d learned. He relayed to me that if I wrote such a thing, he would sue me.

I checked the family bank account.

I declined to write the truth.

And now here comes Lamar’s agent saying he hasn’t been missing for 72 hours, that he’s simply been in an LA hotel for that time (along with no direct denial of drugs being involved in a 72-hour hotel stay.)

Sorry, boys. But your credibility bullets have all been fired foolishly into the air.

On a game day, 5:59 p.m. is essentially the middle of an NBA player’s workday. Much of this is done in private, not before TV cameras, not before glaring lights, not even before the accidental crossing of paths with a reporter.

On Friday, April 8, 2012, the accidental crossing of paths occurred. And that’s when I realized how near the end of his Mavs stint Lamar Odom was … and hell, maybe how near he was to succumbing to whatever bedevils him now.

It was 5:59 p.m. The Portland Trail Blazers were warming up on the game floor. Dirk Nowitzki was shooting up a sweat in the AAC basement. Assistant Monte Mathis was scribbling gameplan notes on Dallas’ locker room greaseboard. It was the nuts-and-bolts of an NBA “midday” and tipoff was 91 minutes away …

And that’s when I saw Lamar Odom strolling across the street from the W Hotel to his AAC place of basketball business. Not hustling across the street because he was late (again); strolling, almost aimlessly, while hundreds of others who were part of the show that night — coaches, players, support staff, ushers, you name ’em — were doing their thing and in many cases picking up his slack.

Less than a day after this incident, Lamar Odom was dismissed from the Mavs.

Odom was never with the Mavs in spirit and from that day on wasn’t with them in body … but the stench lingers still.

He remained on the Mavs’ books for that year, you know, and here’s a little-known fact: The Mavs’ commitment to him (and to winning that year, contrary to what so many critics continue to believe) is such that they waded into taxpayer status to have him, thus using up one of their three-years-in-five that they can pay tax without the repeater penalty coming into play.

Odom’s unfortunate stats: 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game while shooting 35.2 percent from the field and 25.2 percent on 3-pointers, all-career lows. The taxpayer status, the stats, the insulting lack of effort, the fake-deep-thinking mumbo-jumbo…

The Mavs got conned by Lamar Odom.

Mavs management asked a handful of vets who’d just won a title and a bunch of newcomers on short-term deals to jump in a foxhole with Lamar Odom… and as I now know, even if Lamar is in that foxhole all by himself, he cannot stand the company.

Coach Rick Carlisle tried it all. Tough love. Soft love. No love. Owner Mark Cuban and star Dirk Nowitzki finally ran off Odom, and he found himself back in LA this season, across the hallway with the Clippers, a basketball grafter paid handsomely once again to con a mark.

Was Lamar Odom uninspired, lazy and dishonest as a 2011 Dallas Mav because of crack? Did he ruin a locker room, crash the tax plans and embarrass the defending champs because of crack? Did he go missing, maybe ruin his marriage and maybe end his NBA career, because of crack?

If so… Sorry, Khloe and Lamar. I am indeed about as surprised as I am sympathetic.

If you are looking for sympathy, you have come to the wrong place. Why? Most of all, this:

It is estimated that over six million children in America live with at least one parent who has a drug addiction. Those six million children certainly don’t have the avenues of rescue that are available to Lamar Odom. They don’t have the Kardashians’ money, they don’t have the NBA’s power, they don’t have the Dallas Mavericks’ support.

So I pray for Lamar Odom, yes. But he’s in my Drug-Abuse Prayer Line behind six million children.