Rodman teammate: 'Mission accomplished'

BEIJING (USA TODAY) -- As Dennis Rodman continued his controversial "basketballdiplomacy" inside North Korea Friday, his U.S. teammates at anexhibition game Wednesday flew out of Pyongyang praising their trip anddeclaring "mission accomplished."

"On behalf of all the playersthat went on the trip, it's probably best to say that we set out on amission to use basketball as a bridge for cultural exchange and weaccomplished that mission," said Charles Smith at Beijing airportFriday.

Earlier this week, the former New York Knicks forwardexpressed "remorse for the guys" at the way their trip, criticized backin the USA, was being "dwarfed" by politics, and admitted that some ofRodman's words and actions "tainted our efforts".

Smith dismissed the suggestion that any schism had developed between him and Rodman.

"Dennisis a friend," Smith said Friday. "We have known each other intimatelyfor three-and-a-half years. We don't have any division. That won'thappen."

Rodman apologized Thursday for widely-criticized comments Tuesday about Kenneth Bae, a U.S. citizen detained in North Korea.

STORY: Rodman apologizes, then apparently hits ski slopes

RELATED: Sister of N. Korea prisoner says Rodman hurting case

Heblamed his remarks on stress and drinking. "Some of my teammates wereleaving because of pressure from their families and businessassociates," he said in a statement. "My dreams of basketball diplomacywas quickly falling apart."

But the game went ahead, in the presence of North Korean dictator,and Rodman's "best friend", Kim Jong Un, who shook hands after the gamewith the U.S. players. Those players wore medals given by their Koreanhosts, according to footage on North Korean state television.

MORE: Happy Birthday, Mr. Dictator: Rodman sings for Kim

Smithsounded far more positive Friday. "We were in North Korea withtourists, with other Americans and our documentary film crew and all ofus agree that the trip was just simply incredible," he said. "I had achance to meet with some of the leadership there," said Smith, whopromised he would speak soon "about some North Korean issues, theireconomic strategies, and some of the cultural experiences we hadoverall."

Smith said he had, "No regrets about the trip whatsoever."

Mostof the other players refused to make additional comments, but a fewpraised their trip. "It was a great experience," said Antwan Scott, aformer Harlem Globetrotter. "I would go back definitely," he said.

"It was amazing," agreed ex-NBA player Doug Christie, who declined to indicate if he would take his wife Jackie, a Basketball Wives TV star, to the highly isolated and impoverished nation.

Rodmanremained in North Korea Friday, on his fourth trip there in under ayear. No other foreign citizen is known to have enjoyed such regularaccess to the young, reclusive leader of North Korea's repressiveregime.

Rodman was reported to have visited Kim's newly built skiresort on North Korea's east coast Thursday. State media have praisedRodman's visit, which the U.S. government has stressed enjoys noofficial backing from Washington.

Kim, "welcomed the Americanbasketball players' visit to the DPRK and said that the game served as agood occasion in promoting the understanding between the peoples of thetwo countries," the official KCNA news agency reported.

Rodmansang 'happy birthday' before Wednesday's game, which he called a giftfor Kim's birthday. The song reflected "his reverence for Kim Jong Un,touching the spectators," said KCNA.

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