CHICAGO -- Dennis Rodman is preparing to thrill North Korean fans during an exhibition basketball tour there late next month. Jose Juan Barea Jersey . Though he ducked questions in an interview with The Associated Press about whether his Christmas-time visit would be used for propaganda purposes by Kim Jong Un, the 29-year-old leader of one of the worlds most repressive regimes, Rodman said hell be accompanied on the trip by a dozen or so former NBA players. But he refused to name names. "I have seven people right now," Rodman said. "I talked to a couple of guys last week. Lot of guys are saying, OK, great. Ill go. Well go. But Im not saying this to get people to go over there to prove a point -- OK, great, lets go over there and make a difference. "No-o-o-o-o-o," he continued. "Lets go over there because this is a great opportunity for everyone to see a different culture. ... This country is so bad. This city is so bad. OK, great, come see it and tell the world when you come back, Hey, its not as bad as you think. And thats why Im taking NBA players over there, to show them, so they can come back and talk about it." Back in the news as a self-appointed ambassador and friend of Kim, Rodman returned Thursday to where he won the last three of his five NBA championships playing alongside Michael Jordan. On a promotional tour to pitch a vodka brand, Rodman, 52, held court downtown amid camera flashes. Rodman said he wouldnt talk about his relationship with Kim or North Korean politics, including its widely condemned human-rights record and secretive nuclear weapons program. Though he eventually touched on those subjects, Rodman glossed over several related questions and largely ignored a challenge to his answer about whether North Korea was holding U.S. citizens as hostages, including 85-year-old Korean War veteran Merrill Newman. The Swedish Embassy is negotiating on behalf of Newman because the U.S. has no diplomatic ties to North Korea. Rodmans friendship with Kim has afforded him the kind of access denied statesmen from the West and even U.S. President Barack Obama. Rodman came under criticism for being "naive" during a previous visit to North Korea, where he was photographed often with Kim, and some members of the diplomatic community fear his antics could further aggravate already-sensitive negotiations. Rodman said his reasons for returning were much more personal and beyond that, Kims motives were not his concern. "Like I told you, this is not all about trying to create this major buzz," Rodman said. "Because I dont want my friend to sit there and say I been doing this all along to slip in some information on him. I dont want that. Thats why Im not doing that. Were friends and thats it. "This aint about me trying to be a politician and try to get some scoop on him and stuff like that. ... Hes my friend first. Other than that, I dont give a damn what ... he does." Rodman began his NBA career with the Detroit Pistons in 1986. It ended in 2000, after failed attempts to catch on with both the Lakers and Mavericks. Whether or not he misses the game, its clear he enjoys being back in the limelight, detractors and all. "People say, what do you do for a living? I dont know. I just float around the world. Basically, I dont do anything. I do a lot of major things around the world. I do things that is very significant right now, and people are actually paying attention to Dennis Rodman now. "Back when I was doing my finagling in sports, they thought I was a joke. They thought I was a cartoon character or something like that. All of a sudden now, people are taking me seriously. You know, an ambassador all around the world," he added. "Its like ... I think things have come full circle." Harrison Barnes Jersey . It was the first game back in Columbus for Rangers star Rick Nash, the Blue Jackets franchise leader in goals, assists and games. He was given a standing ovation during a video tribute in the first period, but was booed loud and long after a second-period, two-handed shove up high on Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Josh McRoberts Jersey . Unfortunately for Toronto, that surge was too much to handle as the Stars scored six straight goals and ended the Marlies season with a 6-2 victory on Tuesday. Toronto had built a 2-0 lead on goals by Frazer McLaren and Peter Holland, but Texas charged back with a wild rally late in the second period to spark its trip to the Calder Cup final. http://www.nbamavericksauthority.com/yogi-ferrell-mavericks-jersey-c-20/ . The Spanish champions decision not to sign a defender during the January transfer window may have backfired after Valencia took advantage of a lethargic, uninspired effort by its hosts at the Camp Nou, where former Spain coach Luis Aragones -- who previously coached the Catalan side -- was honoured after his death on Saturday.FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Levine Toilolo was at the front of the line of Falcons tight ends taking turns at a blocking sled on Sunday. Toilolo (6-foot-8, 265) appeared to have no difficulty as he shoved the sled a few yards. If only it were as easy for Toilolo to push aside the big question that shadows his every step through Atlantas training camp: Can the second-year tight end from Stanford replace Tony Gonzalez, a certain future Hall of Famer? The Falcons have tried to take pressure off Toilolo. Quarterback Matt Ryan said no one player can replace Gonzalez. "Certainly he had a unique skill set really in the history of the NFL," Ryan said of Gonzalez. "Hes one of the tight ends who really revolutionized the position to come from basketball and use that skill set to be a receiver. "I think well have a combination of guys fill in for the skill set he had and certainly schematically youve got to change some of the things that you do because some of the things Tony was good at dont necessarily fit in with some of the guys that we have. Well make some adjustments and some new wrinkles for some of the new guys, to play to their strengths. But we need to find some production that were going to miss that Tony provided." Gonzalez caught 83 passes for 859 yards and a team-leading eight touchdowns in 2013. Toilolo had 11 catches for 55 yards in his backup role as a rookie. In a possibly promising preview of Toilolos potential as a red-zone target, two of his catches were for touchdowns. The Falcons added some veteran help in the off-season including Bear Pascoe, who made six starts for the New York Giants last season. Another newcomer is Mickey Shuler, who started two games for Miami in 2010. Rookies Brian Wozniak and Jacob Pedersen, each from Wisconsin, also are competing for spots. Toilolo remains the favourite to start. He said he never forgets the player hes following and acknowledged some pressure accompanies that challenge. "I think at the back of your mind youu know its there but at the same time everybody is doing a great job of picking up the slack," Toilolo said. Dennis Smith Jr. Jersey. "Theyre not really placing it on one person. You cant really do that with a guy like Tony and the career hes had and the production hes had." Ryan said he sees Toilolo making an impact close to the goal line, as a receiver and a blocker with his improved strength. "Weve started to install some of our red zone stuff and I think thats an area where he can be successful," Ryan said. "Hes a big guy with long arms. I think we can use him in a matchup. I think hes improved strength-wise a lot in the off-season. Ive been watching him block a little bit and play the position and hes improved from last year. I think hes handled things the right way." Smith said more players than just the tight ends much help in replacing Gonzalez. "Tony has been a very productive player his entire career and especially here in Atlanta, so there might be multiple tight ends that might get touches and also we might distribute the ball to other players," Smith said. "So other players, not necessarily tight ends, might have more opportunities to get touches." NOTES: The Falcons had no immediate update on OT Terren Jones, who was carted off the practice field and taken to an area hospital with an unknown injury. Jones was placed in a neck brace. ... DE RaShede Hageman left practice with an apparent hand or wrist injury following a fight with C Joe Hawley. Smith said hell stress ending the trend of fights in this years training camp. ... S Tyrell Johnson had his first practice after signing with the team earlier in the day. The team needed more depth at the position after S Dwight Lowery left Friday nights scrimmage with a concussion. Lowery missed most of the 2013 season with Jacksonville with a concussion. Johnson, a second-round pick by Minnesota in 2008, played four seasons with the Vikings. He played four games with Detroit in 2012. Cheap Canadiens Jerseys Cheap Predators Jerseys Cheap Devils Jerseys Cheap Islanders Jerseys Cheap Rangers Jerseys Cheap Senators Jerseys Cheap Flyers Jerseys Cheap Penguins Jerseys Cheap Sharks Jerseys Cheap Blues Jerseys Cheap Lightning Jerseys Cheap Maple Leafs Jerseys Cheap Canucks Jerseys Cheap Golden Knights Jerseys Cheap Capitals Jerseys Cheap Winnipeg Jets Jerseys ' ' '