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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.

Report: NBA executives expect busy in-season trade market

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For the first time in years, the NBA feels wide open — more than 10 NBA front offices think they have a shot at an NBA title next season (a few of them are delusional about that, but they believe). It’s one of the reasons we saw such an aggressive trade market last summer, teams thought they had an opening so the Clippers (Kawhi Leonard and Paul George), Lakers (Anthony Davis), Nets (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant), Houston Rockets (Russell Westbrook), and others were aggressive on the free agent and trade markets to land stars.

Expect that aggressive mindset to carry over to the in-season trade market.

That’s what executives have been telling Sean Deveney of Heavy.com.

“We’ve been getting calls all summer,” one general manager told Heavy.com. “There are a lot of things we are considering. The dust settles a little, you’re aware of your weaknesses and your holes and so you find ways to address that. I think we’re going to see more of that than usual. I think if you look at the market, there is going to be a very brisk trade market this winter for a few reasons.”…

Chief among those reasons is a sense that next spring’s Larry O’Brien trophy is up for grabs, a feeling that took hold during last year’s Finals when Kevin Durant of the Warriors ruptured his Achilles tendon and crystallized when Golden State lost to Toronto, then saw Durant sign with the Nets as a free agent…

The other big driver of the trade market this season figures to be the open, empty crater that the 2020 free-agent class has become. Teams hoping to make significant changes in their direction won’t have free agency to lean on. Trades will be the way to go.

The lack of a decent free agent class in 2020 is why teams are still eyeing and calling Washington about Bradley Beal (and those calls continue to be rejected, Washington is not interested as of now and Beal himself wants to stay because he wants to qualify for the $250 million supermax contract and only the Wizards can give it to him). The only big 2020 free agent is Anthony Davis and nobody around the league thinks he’s leaving the Lakers and LeBron James after all he did to get there. After that, the biggest unrestricted names are Kyle Lowry, Andre Drummond (player option), DeMar DeRozan (player option), Danilo Gallinari, and Goran Dragic. There are restricted free agents such as Brandon Ingram and Jaylen Brown, but they will be expensive to steal away.

With high expectations in a lot of front offices after last summer, when the reality of the season hits and holes in the roster are exposed — or injuries create new ones — teams are going to make moves to fill them. Trade rumors are going to fly around the league and the rumor mill will continue to be on full tilt, something fans love but the league is wary about. Owners and NBA league execs don’t like the focus on player movement being bigger than the games themselves, in part because the games are where the money is made, the teams don’t cash in from trade rumors. Put simply, winning Twitter doesn’t put money in an owner’s pocket.

That’s not going to stop the rumors, expect them to be flying again all season long.

Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball reportedly working out with no restrictions in NOLA

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a bright future ahead of them. This season will be the first for No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, and the team is expected to be a playoff contender thanks to a solid young core and proven veterans like Jrue Holiday.

But one of the things that could hold the Pelicans back? Health.

Both Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball — two of the cornerstone pieces sent over in the Anthony Davis trade with the Los Angeles Lakers — have battled various ailments. Ingram had a blood clot that knocked him out in March. Ball had been dealing with an ankle injury for most of 2019.

A team with this many fresh faces will need as much time together as they can get, and so it’s good news that both Ingram and Ball are reportedly getting some run in recent practices.

Via ESPN:

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram and guard Lonzo Ball have been full participants in the team’s voluntary offseason workouts in New Orleans, a source told ESPN on Tuesday.

Neither player has been restricted by the injuries that shut them down last season while members of the Los Angeles Lakers, representing a significant step with training camp around the corner on Oct. 1.

New Orleans is expected to be a challenger in the Western Conference, which has been weakened by the departure of Kevin Durant (and the injury to Klay Thompson) in the Bay Area. Yes, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George represent a formidable force for the Los Angeles Clippers, but the parity in the Western Conference should allow a team like the Pelicans to make some noise.

If his team can get healthy and find some rhythm, it might be a quick turnaround for David Griffin after losing Davis via trade not so long ago.

Joel Embiid says he’s lost 25 pounds this summer (VIDEO)

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The big knock against Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid was that he just wasn’t in shape enough to play NBA basketball. Several times down the stretch last year, and Embiid couldn’t be relied upon to play from a conditioning standpoint.

But all that might be about to change.

In a recent video posted to social media, Embiid could be seen eating extremely hot chip as part of a marketing campaign. As Embiid gulped down the fiery junk food, he mentioned that he had actually lost 25 pounds over this summer.

“This summer I lost about 25 pounds,” said Embiid as he struggled to deal with the heat from the Carolina Reaper-laced chip by gulping down glasses of milk. “I’m about to put it back on with this milk.”

That’s a huge bit of news for Sixers fans who have derided Embiid’s lack of willpower when it has come to his diet. The Cameroonian center famously loved Shirley Temple’s, and there have been stories of him eating huge amounts of Chik-fil-A and up to four milkshakes in one sitting.

A thinner, slimmer Embiid should not only take some weight off of his knees and ankles, but it might also allow Brett Brown to keep his best player in the game for longer stretches in important situations.

Summer in the NBA is rife with news of #musclewatch, but for now here’s hoping that Embiid can keep the weight off. Keep counting those calories, my dude.

Rudy Gobert says lack of Team USA stars in World Cup will continue

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The 2019 FIBA World Cup is over, and the United States did not medal. It was a disappointing showing for Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, and Jayson Tatum, who led the U.S. national team in a year in which several stars did not want to participate.

Instead it looks as though players like Stephen Curry and Draymond Green will play next year in the 2020 Olympics in Japan. Meanwhile, what can FIBA do to entice stars to play in their tournament?

There are lots of issues with how the World Cup works, including the wonky qualifying windows and the fact that the Olympics come in short succession. That’s not to say that folks back in the States don’t want the World Cup to be a big deal — USA basketball head Jerry Colangelo has said that he wants the FIBA contest to be a premier event.

But some, like Utah Jazz and French national team big man Rudy Gobert, don’t ever see that happening. Speaking to the New York Times’ Marc Stein, Gobert said that he doesn’t believe players will join in on the FIBA games thanks to how the modern NBA works.

Via NY Times:

“I wish all the best players would come, but it’s never going to happen,” Gobert said of the modern N.B.A. player’s approach in the Load Management Era. “They think about themselves more than anything — and it’s understandable. It’s a business. We all have families to take care of.”

Although FIBA has been around since 1932, it’s not a part of American culture yet and thus the Olympics seem to be what both players and fans care about in comparison. That the U.S. men’s team didn’t come away with the gold doesn’t even seem to be that big of a deal, culturally.

Gobert has the right idea in terms of the reality of the situation. Until respective national team organizations can entice their own players to join in, it’s not clear what the World Cup will mean for basketball fans in North America moving forward. As such, we are unlikely to see a star-studded World Cup Team USA in the near future.