Dennis Rodman, basketball diplomat, says he is 'not a joke'

 By Chuck Schilken, Los Angeles Times

Dennis Rodman is ready to take basketball diplomacy to the next level.

Fresh off his second controversial trip to North Korea, the flamboyant former NBA star announced plans to stage a pair of exhibition games there in January, featuring a team of fellow ex-basketball players.

He even threw out a couple of names on his wish list: Scottie Pippen and Karl Malone. But there's no word on whether his fellow Hall of Famers will be joining Rodman on his next trip to the repressive state that considers the U.S. a sworn enemy and has sentenced American Kenneth Bae to 15 years of hard labor for alleged hostile acts against North Korea.

More about Bae in a moment, but first more basketball talk.

Rodman said North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has asked him to help train the country's Olympic team, and that Rodman, in turn, invited his friend for life to attend a New York Knicks game with him.

“And what did he say? ‘That would be amazing,’” Rodman said at a news conference in New York on Monday, sitting in front of a bust of himself.

Rodman said Kim also asked the five-time NBA champion to write a book about him and interview him on television.

While discussing his recent trip, Rodman also apparently leaked the name of Kim's new baby daughter, Ju Ae, mentioning that he got to hold the child. He referred to Kim as "a good dad."

Now as far as Bae goes, apparently the topic didn't come up. "It is not my job to talk about Kenneth Bae," Rodman told reporters at the Beijing airport on Saturday. "Ask Obama about that, ask Hillary Clinton about that."

See, what those reporters were forgetting is that though Rodman is certainly a diplomat, he's a basketball diplomat.

“I’m not a joke,” Rodman said Monday. “Take me seriously.”

Dennis Rodman arrives in Beijing after a five-day trip to North Korea, September 7, 2013 (CNN)