It hasn’t been the easiest week Los Angeles Lakers rookie guard D’Angelo Russell.
Russell has been in the news this week after a private conversation with teammate Nick Young was recorded and later leaked.
Still the 20-year-old had many supporters who greeted him at Community Chevrolet Saturday afternoon.
Russell, who was the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, signed autographs and took photographs with fans at the Olive Ave. dealership.
Community Chevrolet General Manager Chad Kelman said he was able to get Russell to come to the dealership as part of a deal made when the dealership sold the player a Corvette.
“He’s a real nice guy. I’ve met him a few times and he wants to take care of the community,” Kelman said. “He’s a big fan of Los Angeles. He’s committed to the area and he loves it here and wants to make sure he’s part of the fabric of it.”
Russell was not made available to speak to the media by Creative Artists Agency, which represents him.
Fans showed up as early as 8 a.m. for the event that was scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m.
Former Burroughs High football player Daniel Hernandez and his brother Paul were the first in line.
“It’s honestly exciting. He’s going to be a future All Star. To get to meet him and get an autograph from him is amazing. In the future it is going to be amazing to look back on this day and say I got to meet him,” Daniel Hernandez said.
Hernandez said Russell could be the player the Lakers build their future around following the retirement of Kobe Bryant.
“Like Kobe said ‘He has to earn the torch, it doesn’t get passed to him’, but he can definitely earn it,” Hernandez added. “He’s already showing that he’s got thick skin in light of this week. He was amazing against the Miami Heat on Wednesday. “
Hernandez said his opinion of Russell has not changed in light of the incident he has made headlines for.
“It’s unfortunate. He’s young. It doesn’t make an excuse that he’s young,” Hernandez said. “Hopefully he’ll learn from this. It’s a rookie mistake.”
Jason O’Hara drove from Agoura Hills to see Russell.
“As far as D’Angelo and what he’s going through with everyone on the team, things leak out,” O’Hara said. “I think it’s (the fault of) who got a hold of what had happened and how they went about it.
The event in Burbank at Community Chevrolet is a good event as far as him trying to get back into the limelight for him to get people to love him again. “
Cole Vietor, a Cal State Northridge student, was also quick to defend Russell.
“I don’t think he has a maturity issue. I think he’s just a 19-year-old kid. We’ve all done things that are questionable,” Vietor said. “Nobody knows the full story behind his latest drama with Nick Young. He’s definitely a great player with a bunch of raw basketball talent.”
Russell’s brother Antonio accompanied him to the event. Antonio Russell lives with his brother. He said D’Angelo is learning quickly about life as a professional athlete.
“It has not been the easiest past couple of weeks,” Antonio Russell said. “But it makes you tougher for when that time comes and you know the Lakers start succeeding. It’s all part of the plan.”
With the Lakers holding a strong opportunity at obtaining the first pick in the June NBA draft, there is a possibility Russell could be reunited with former high school teammate Ben Simmons, who is widely regarded as the top pick.
“He feels Ben is a tremendous player,” Antonio Russell said. “Anybody they get in the draft is going to be extremely good for the Lakers organization in the rebuilding period.”