LOS ANGELES CA - JANUARY 11: Derrick Caracter #45 of the Los Angeles Lakers controls the ball against Samardo Samuels #24 of the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center on January 11 2011 in Los Angeles California. The Lakers won 112-57. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and or using this photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Who among us hasn't been arrested in an IHOP?
The Los Angeles Lakers returned from New Orleans early Monday morning after a visit to the Crescent City that didn't quite go as planned. They won Game Three of their first-round series with the Hornets, which is good. But they lost Game Four, which is kind of bad. And Kobe Bryant injured his ankle, which is very bad. Also, rookie Derrick Caracter got himself pinched by the New Orleans PD, which is irrelevant to the Lakers' on-court fortunes but nonetheless impressively stupid.
NOLA police arrested Caracter around 1:00 a.m. on Sunday because he was "obviously drunk" and "unruly." Where was the young man when he got caught letting off steam a bit too enthusiastically? At an IHOP, of course. What, like there's anywhere better to hang out in New Orleans?? Caracter allegedly shoved a female cashier and, according to the Los Angeles Times, could face charges of battery, public intoxication and resisting arrest. Well played, DC.
This story takes the predictably depressing tale of an athlete finding trouble on an off-night in a world-famous party capital and sets it against the equally depressing backdrop of a chain restaurant whose food is barely a notch above what's on the menu in prison cafeterias. Even if, as I suppose is necessary, we stipulate that the details of the incident are alleged, there's still enough here to confirm and illustrate Caracter's talent for being a total jackass. Let's take stock of the several bad decisions he managed to condense into a single night on the town.
1. He was out and about until the wee hours the night before a game. NBA players aren't college kids. They don't have 10:00 p.m. bed checks and are trusted to navigate the world outside the team hotel without mishap. And I don't begrudge anyone using their off day to enjoy one of our most spirited and vivacious cities.
But come on, son... this is New Orleans. If you're out at 1:00 a.m., you don't need to go looking for trouble because trouble will find you. Even if, especially if, you're a 6'9" NBA player who's bound to attract more than the usual amount of attention. Just go have a nice meal, enjoy a digestif or two as you catch a little live music, and then hit the rack before the ambient chaos that makes New Orleans rock overtakes you. Anything more is to pretty much ask for a visit to one of NOLA's finest municipal holding cells.
2. He was mucho drunk or doing a very good impression of it. According to the police report, Caracter wasn't just drunk. He was "obviously drunk." The modifier is critical. My understanding is that in New Orleans, 50 to 70 percent of the city is drunk at all times, so if you're there and so inebriated that the police make a point of noting how obvious it was, you're doing something special. That's like getting arrested in Los Angeles for being too thin, or in Boston for being too racist.
3. He was at an IHOP. This one's almost too stupid to believe. You know how many fantastic restaurants there are in New Orleans? Not if you're Derrick Caracter, you don't.
NOLA's the worldwide gold standard for guilty-pleasure food. You could spend a week there doing nothing but scarfing down jambalaya, crawfish and Hubig's pies (kick-ass confections that your author has had shipped to his home in Hollywood on many occasions), and you'd barely scratch the surface of the city's culinary riches. Anyone dumb enough to suggest hitting IHOP in New Orleans should be incarcerated indefinitely and crammed into the next Gulf Coast oil well that BP blows up.
Even in cities far below New Orleans in the tasty grub power rankings, IHOP is acceptable only under rare conditions. These conditions being that (a) it's open and (b) everything else in sight, including gas stations and rest stops with vending machines, is closed. Caracter (allegedly) shoved an IHOP cashier because she refused him service? He should've tipped her 100 bucks for the excellent advice. Anyone who did me the favor of expediting my departure from an IHOP would be on my holiday-card list for eternity.
The Lakers haven't said much about the incident yet. Team spokesman John Black told the Times that they're "looking into it." You have to imagine, though, that everyone in the front office has been face-palming for the past 24 hours. They might be tempted to bring him back to NOLA for Game Six purely in the hopes of just leaving him there.
His severance payment can be a bottle of syrup.
Follow Dex on Twitter @dexterfishmore.