D'Angelo Russell greeted by Lakers fans willing to forgive

BURBANK, Calif. -- Hundreds of Los Angeles Lakers fans stretched along the walls outside the Community Chevrolet dealership Saturday afternoon, all of them eagerly waiting to meet rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell.

At Russell's side: a Lakers security guard, a representative from Creative Artists Agency (which represents him), and his two older brothers, Antonio and LeShawn.

Chevrolet also provided two additional security guards in case any issues arose considering the heated fallout after a leaked video Russell secretly recorded of teammate Nick Young discussing women other than his fiancée, Iggy Azalea, went public recently.

ESPN first reported this week that some of Russell's teammates were isolating him since the video was posted, and on Wednesday at Staples Center against the Miami Heat, Lakers fans roundly booed Russell during player introductions and any time he touched the ball early in the game.

But the extra security never had to act at the dealership Saturday. An estimated 600 to 800 fans turned out -- Bob Frutos, the mayor of Burbank, also was in attendance -- and the reaction was wholly positive as Russell signed more than 400 autographs and took more than 600 pictures for over an hour in the dealership's foyer.

Russell, who owns a Corvette, reached out to Chevrolet to schedule the meet-and-greet months ago, but the event came at an awkward moment when his reputation has taken a serious, perhaps career-altering hit.

But after the darkest and more traumatic week in his basketball career, Russell was greeted by hundreds of fans who were wearing his jersey and carried pictures, posters and basketball cards of him. They shared with Russell how beloved he is by the fan base and how excited they are for the franchise's future with him as its point guard.

"You're here to stay, man," one fan yelled to Russell.

"We want you," another said.

A father holding his infant daughter pointed at Russell and whispered to her, "He's going to win us a championship."

As Russell heard the constant stream of positive feedback and reinforcement, the stern look on his face when he entered the building began to fade. The normally affable 20-year-old began to open up and joke with fans, though he was not made available to reporters for comment.

"Take the torch," a fan told him. "Take over. Byron Scott won't be there!"

The last sentence elicited a laugh and a big smile from Russell. He simply responded with a "thank you," but his body language said it all.

"I feel like it was a big misunderstanding," Steven Pesikov, 22, told ESPN.com. "I was a little sketched out about it, but I don't think it was on purpose. It was just bad circumstances."

Pesikov said his friends who are Lakers fans are split on how to feel about Russell, with some calling him a "snitch" and refusing to cheer for him, while others, like himself, have forgiven Russell and moved past the incident.

Juan Catalan, 37, waited in line for two hours and gave Russell words of encouragement.

"True Lakers fans got your back," Catalan said. "We're behind you. You're going to be a superstar."

"Nobody's perfect," Catalan told ESPN.com. "Everybody makes mistakes. It's human nature to kick someone when they're down and out. I just wanted to come here and show him some love and support."

Catalan and the hundreds of fans who showed up weren't the only ones. Following the backlash Russell has received in light of the recent drama, more than 100 fans called Chevrolet and told them to let Russell know they wished nothing but the best for him.

"Over the last couple of weeks, people called just to offer support and wanted to make sure he was still coming," Community Chevrolet general manager Chad Kelman said. "We were really thrilled with how everything rolled out. Frankly, just about everyone that was here was here for the right reasons, and they were all very supportive.

"I think you realize this is a really welcoming fan base. The people that were here were truly fans of him and the Lakers."