Dennis Rodman encourages gay athletes to come out

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Dennis Rodman keeps finding new ways to surprise.

The 58-year-old former NBA star built his own personal brand of flamboyant individualism well before social media made every pro athlete accessible to fans, and outside the traditional endorsements-and-corporate partnership framework. At the peak of his fame in the 1990s, Rodman pulled the spotlight toward himself by swapping out hair colors, adding tattoos and piercings, dressing in drag, and dating Madonna.

“I branded Dennis Rodman being different,” he says. “I was just being free … because I was becoming so bored about life and about playing the game of basketball, I had to do something to spark my life.”

After winning two championships with the Detroit Pistons and three with the Chicago Bulls, Rodman flamed out of the NBA in 2000. He spent years pursuing lackluster side hustles – and partying – then found his way back in front of microphones and cameras by forming a relationship with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.

Rodman’s spectacular personal highs and very public lows are the subject of the new ESPN “30 For 30” documentary “Dennis Rodman: For Better or Worse.” While making promotional rounds for the film, he wore a T-shirt depicting himself in a wedding dress at a 1996 book promo event.

Rodman spoke with The Associated Press about finding his niche as an entertainer, locker-room etiquette and President Donald Trump’s North Korea diplomacy.

AP: Sometimes being out of control led to the things that were best for you, and sometimes the worst for you. How do you think about that?

Rodman: I think the worst things that I was doing that people called bad – me drunk driving or me going to jail – was the best thing that happened to me. And all the good things that happened to me, I pretty much damaged those on my own because the way I was living and the way I was doing things in my life. But I think that title for the documentary is so appropriate: “For Better or for Worse.” Because when I was building this individual, Dennis Rodman, and I was building this brand – which I didn’t know was a brand back then – I did this all by myself. I don’t have anybody to help me, to make Dennis Rodman. Michael Jordan got Nike, Kobe got Nike. … One of the things I was proud of the most back then – I actually brought the gay community to the forefront for sports because of the things I was doing. I did a “Sports Illustrated” cover where I went in in a bathing suit and had makeup and stuff like that. And I was so flamboyant when I was doing it and stuff like that and people are like “Wow, we like this guy because he’s not afraid to go out the box.”

AP: Given what you did 20 years ago, are you surprised there still aren’t more out gay players in professional sports?

Rodman: I just think that percentage-wise in sports, I think there’s a lot. There’s probably more bisexual than gay in sports. I’m sorry guys, to expose everybody. I wish all of them would come out. It’s acceptable today. Just come out, man. Have a good time. Enjoy yourself.

AP: Did you see those conversations happening in the locker room? Were people having those talks?

Rodman: I don’t know any man on this planet – any man on this planet – that don’t go in the shower and look at another man. I don’t know any man that don’t do that. Gay or not gay, I don’t care who you are – a man is going to look at another man. I don’t give a damn how you look at it. He’s not gay though, but you got that pride and that image.

AP: (With North Korea), you weren’t intentional about necessarily going in order to make a name for yourself?

Rodman: It was a learning experience. It was a great experience. I mean a lot of people wish they can do what I did. I broke ground, I broke levels of leadership and stuff like that. And people don’t give me credit for it, which I don’t care. … I didn’t expect to be friends with this guy. Like I say, he hasn’t done anything to me, but to the world, he’s probably damaging to the world. But he respected me and I respected him in a friendship-type manner. … He was a very courteous, nice individual. Trump seems to want to do his political thing. You know like, `I’m saving the world for all of us.’ I said, Donald, don’t forget, I met him first. (Laughs.) I hope everything works out between North Korea and America. And it should in the future – unless someone mess it up. And it ain’t going to be me.

AP: Are you worried that Donald Trump is going to mess it up?

Rodman: It should work out. Let things pan out. I’m not going to mess it up, but I hope someone would just make sure that everything is cool. That’s it. Enough said.

AP: Do you consider yourself a Donald Trump supporter now?

Rodman: Nah. I like Donald no matter what. I mean Donald as president, I don’t care if he’s president or not, I just like him as a friend. That’s it. Now as president, I don’t know what he’s doing. As a friend, I just go shake his hand, we break bread. That’s it. I don’t hate nobody. I don’t care what you do, whatever. If you’re friendly to me, you’re nice to me, I’m good.

What will Rockets do at trade deadline? Send out Gordon? Bring in Collins?

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There’s a sense in league circles that this is the final season Houston will be okay with having one of the worst — as of today, the worst — record in the NBA. The Rockets hope to grab one of the big names at the top of the draft board this season, but they already have drafted Jalen Green at No. 2 (2021) and Jabari Smith Jr. at No. 3 (2022), plus made a draft night trade for Alperen Şengün (who is playing well). With cap space to spend and extensions coming up, the tanking days will be over.

How will that impact the Rockets at this trade deadline? Here are a few names to watch.

Kelly Iko at The Athletic reports the Rockets have interest in the Hawks’ John Collins and the sides have talked, but there is no real traction yet.

There has been nothing concrete from the Rockets — merely ideas floated by the Hawks to Houston among other teams — but the interest is real.

The Rockets could also be part of a larger, three-team trade to move Collins.

Eric Gordon remains on the trade block, as he has been for more than a year. Gordon has been frustrated waiting, but the Rockets have held out for what they thought was fair — a first-round pick — to no avail. That price likely comes down, and according to Iko at The Athletic, the front office is “more inclined to trade him now” than in the past, but the proof will be in a deal.

• Teams also are calling about K.J. Martin, according to Iko.

K.J. Martin, there continues to be interest in the 22-year-old combo forward who has been quite productive as a starter — averaging 14 points and seven rebounds on 35 percent shooting from 3 — but nothing concrete at this juncture in terms of offers on the table.

The Rockets like Martin, it’s going to take a serious offer to get them to consider it.

Knicks reportedly offered multiple first-round picks for OG Anunoby, got nowhere

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What are the Toronto Raptors going to do at the trade deadline?

It’s less than two weeks before the trade deadline and the entire NBA is still asking that question, the Raptors are the one team that could turn this trade deadline from a dud to epic if they decide to pivot toward a rebuild. Are they willing to trade players like OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam, or will they look to add a more traditional big man such as the Spurs’ Jakob Poeltl, who has been linked to the Raptors in rumors? Everything seems to be on the table.

Anunoby is a player a lot of teams covet, including New York. The Knicks reached out to the Raptors, reports Ian Begley of SNY.TV.

“And Anunoby with Toronto, I mean, that would cost you a lot. That would cost you significant draft compensation. Maybe the Knicks are there, maybe they’re feeling like they could make the playoffs and make a big push if you added in Anunoby. I know that we reported they contacted Toronto on Anunoby and I was told in that conversation they offered multiple firsts. But this was a while back… Toronto has done a lot since then. But I don’t think the league is crystal clear on what [the Raptors] want to do on Anunoby.”

Anunoby is an elite on-ball wing defender who can be a finisher, averaging 17.3 points and 5.6 rebounds a game at age 25 — the asking price will start at two unprotected first-round picks in this market. The Knicks may have thrown some of their protected picks in the conversation, but Toronto’s asking price is reportedly sky-high because they’re not eager to get rid of him.

Anunoby is making $17.4 million this season and is under contract for $18.2 million next season, a fair price for what he brings to the court (he has a player option at $19.9 million in 2024-25). What the Raptors do with him may signal their direction.

At the deadline, most people around the league expect Toronto to trade Gary Trent Jr., but that’s it. Any other big moves are likely this offseason. If ever.

Reprots: Luka Doncic day-to-day with “mild” ankle sprain

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While there are grades of ankle sprains, ask anyone trying to walk around on one if there is a “mild” version.

Yet that’s what Mavericks sources say about Luka Doncic’s ankle sprain suffered against the Suns on Thursday night. He is “day-to-day” with the injury, a story first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (and since confirmed by others).

Doncic has been playing through ankle soreness in recent weeks and it’s fair to expect the Mavericks to give him a few games off. However, it can’t be too many for a team fighting for a playoff spot, the Mavs are 0-5 in games Doncic has rested this season and have been outscored by 5.3 points per 100 possessions this season when he sits (although they did beat the Suns largely without him Thursday). Doncic is an All-Star starter averaging 33.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game.

Dallas plays next on Saturday against the Jazz. It would be a surprise to see Doncic suit up for that game.

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Boban? Crowder? Holmgren? Exploring player votes for All-Star starters

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Four NBA players — not one as a joke, but four… as a joke — voted for injured Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren to start the NBA All-Star Game.

The NBA All-Star Game starters were announced Thursday, chosen from a weighted vote of fans (50%), media (25%) and current players (25%).

While most NBA players may take their All-Star Game starter votes seriously, some do not — they vote for friends, college teammates, guys with the same agent, or just whoever they feel like.

Which is comedy gold once we comb through the public vote (Note: names are not attached to who cast a vote, but we do see who got votes). This season, that list of players getting at least one vote to be an All-Star starter include:

Bol Bol (Orlando Magic, he got six votes)
Willy Hernangomez (New Orleans Pelicans, he got five votes)
Juancho Hernangomez (Toronto Raptors, he got three votes)
Omer Yurtseven (Miami Heat, he got three votes)
Georges Niang (Philadelphia 76ers, he got five votes)
Ochai Agbaji (Utah Jazz, he got four votes)
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Oklahoma City Thunder, he got three votes)
Bismack Biyombo (Phoenix Suns, he got three votes)
Jae Crowder (Phoenix Suns, he got two votes)
Udonis Haslem (Miami Heat, he got two votes)
Blake Griffin (Boston Celtics)
Boban Marjanovic (Houston Rockets)
Kemba Walker (Dallas Mavericks)
Kendrick Nunn (Los Angeles Lakers)
Ish Smith (Denver Nuggets)
Torrey Craig (Phoenix Suns)
Luka Garza (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Chimezie Metu (Sacramento Kings)
Furkan Korkmaz (Philadelphia 76ers)
R.J. Hampton (Orlando Magic)
Johnny Davis (Washington Wizards)
Cedi Osman (Cleveland Cavaliers)
MarJon Beauchamp (Milwaukee Bucks)
Paul Reed (Philadelphia 76ers)

That is just a fraction of the entire list.