LOS ANGELES -- When D'Angelo Russell was introduced in the starting lineup on Wednesday night against the Miami Heat, the Los Angeles Lakers rookie guard was met by heavy boos from a Staples Center crowd that, until then, had cheered him all season long.
When the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft touched the ball for the first time on offense, fans continued to boo. When the former Ohio State standout launched his first shot, a 3-point attempt from the right wing, fans continued to boo. And when Russell stood at the free throw line to complete a three-point play after scoring his first basket, fans continued to boo.
Indeed, it was evident from the outset of the game that he would receive no sympathy from the Lakers' faithful in attendance a day after ESPN reported that a rift had developed between Russell and his teammates when a video that Russell secretly recorded of Nick Young surfaced on social media.
Some fans shouted "Snitch!" and "Traitor!" -- calls that were crystal clear for all to hear.
"I can't really show my face anywhere without people hating me right now," Russell said. "I don't know. I try to handle it the right way and remember why I'm here, which is to play basketball."
Of the boos, Russell added, "Oh, I knew that was going to happen. It's all good."
There were still boos for Russell later in the game, though not as strong as in the beginning. He finished with 16 points, including five in overtime, on 5-of-17 shooting in the 102-100 victory. He celebrated with his teammates on the court when the final buzzer sounded on the Lakers' 16th win of the season.
"It was tough to a certain extent," Russell said of preparing for the game. "When you've got a guy like Kobe [Bryant] or somebody that's been through everything and he's just like, ‘You've got to just play. You've got to just play. There's no answer. There's nothing anybody can say. You've got to just play,' I just ran with it. Everybody -- [including] my dad -- everybody was saying, ‘You've got to just play.'"
As Bryant explained, "I had a chance to talk to him earlier today. All I can do is just do my best Yoda impersonations and give him that kind of sage advice, I guess. One day pass, this shall -- or something like that."
In all, Bryant called the situation "unfortunate."
"It's tough," Bryant said. "I think there's a lot to learn from that; I'm sure he is, I'm sure he'll evolve. I'm sure he'll grow, and I'm sure he'll be better from it. I don't think there's much he can do about it now; outside of the countless apologies, there's not really anything else he can do but just continue to perform, continue to earn the trust of his teammates and his peers and onward he goes."
While it wasn't clear whether his teammates were isolating him, Russell wasn't heavily involved in the game and didn't showcase the aggressiveness that had led to big scoring nights this season, such as when he scored 39 points early this month against the Brooklyn Nets.
Russell seemed especially attentive to Lakers coach Byron Scott throughout the contest, especially active in trying to communicate with his teammates when he was on the floor and in cheering for them when he wasn't.
"He still has to go out there and perform and play well," Scott said. "His teammates will gravitate towards him if you do all the right things and he says all the right things. I think that was a start today, and we've just got to move on and move past it and keep working on our games as basketball players and keep trying to develop as basketball players, as well. That's just the bottom line. "
Young, meanwhile, didn't play for the 11th straight game, but he remained jovial on the bench, joking with nearby teammates.
In instances when Russell sat on the bench, the two did not sit side-by-side. Two players were wedged between them at one point earlier in the game, and in the fourth quarter, Russell sat closer to the coaching staff.
How long will it take for Russell to regain the trust of his teammates?
"I don't know," Russell said. "You can't undo the damage that's been done. All you can do is stay apologetic from your heart and show how much you care and how sorry you are to your teammates for putting them through something like this that really could tear a locker room apart. It's all on me. It's my job to let guys know that I messed up and I've got to bounce back from it."
Bryant offered his opinion on how Russell can regain the trust of the locker room.
"He talked to the guys tonight," Bryant said. "I think the guys are understanding. I think we're all human beings; I don't think anybody can hold anybody in strict judgment, because everybody makes mistakes. If we're being honest with ourselves and we're sincerely self-assessing, I think we'll realize we've all made mistakes and we've all made massive ones at times. The important thing is to show compassion, empathy. And help him grow, help us grow as a group."
Scott has often called Russell immature throughout this season, but he believes this incident will help Russell mature at a rapid pace.
"If it doesn't, then it's a big failure," Scott said. "I think this has obviously got his attention."