But I didn't wake up the other day thinking that Utah was going to call. I'm grateful they did, and I'm ready to make the most of this opportunity. —Blake Ahearn
HOUSTON — Blake Ahearn couldn't go too crazy when he received the phone call with the news that he'd be joining the Utah Jazz.
The 27-year-old was holding his premature-arriving baby in the newborn intensive care unit of a St. Louis hospital on Monday, so he had to be careful.
But his baby daughter, Blake, had a reaction and gave him a celebratory gift for getting another shot at playing in the NBA.
"Funny enough, right as it happened, I handed the phone (over) and she spit up all over me, all down my shirt," Ahearn said, smiling after his first Jazz shootaround on Wednesday.
Daddy didn't mind.
And Ahearn's wife, Ricki, got a kick out of it.
"My wife," he said, "was like, 'Look. There you go. Now you can take the shirt with you!' "
So Ahearn did.
"I still have it in my bag," he said. "It's the shirt I wore to the airport."
The D-League's leading scorer this past season figured he was done with hoops for awhile when the Jazz gave him the surprise call-up and 10-day contract because of Earl Watson's season-ending knee injury.
Now he jokes that he'll earn enough money to buy diapers for a while.
"I still stay in shape and all that, because there's that in the back of my mind, 'What if something were to happen?'" said Ahearn, who's had short stints with Miami and San Antonio. "But I didn't wake up the other day thinking that Utah was going to call. I'm grateful they did, and I'm ready to make the most of this opportunity."
Coach Tyrone Corbin didn't feel it was right to throw the Missouri State product into the mix so quickly because of how intense and important the Jazz's 103-91 win in Houston was Wednesday. But Corbin lauded Ahearn's basketball IQ and ability to light it up, adding that he hopes to get him in.
Though it came at a bit of a bad personal moment because of his daughter's health situation — making him grateful for Skype and its computer video chatting technology — Ahearn believes he has earned this chance because of his consistent effort with teams like the Reno Bighorns.
Ahearn topped the D-League in scoring with 23.8 points per game last season, and the sharpshooting point guard had a stretch in which he hit a record 110 consecutive free throws.
But go to any gym with a hoop, and you'll see guys who at a glance look about as NBA-ready as the 6-3, 190-pounder.
"I've heard before I don't pass the eye test," Ahearn admitted. "The best thing for me is getting stopped (by security) going to the bus or getting questioned getting on the plane. ... I was in San Antonio (and) the stewardess asked if I was Matt Bonner's friend just along for the ride."
Smiling, Ahearn admitted he's used to dealing with that.
"But when I step on the floor, usually when the buzzer sounds I've earned people's respect. That's just due to my hard work," Ahearn said. "I don't play above the rim. I'm not a banger. I'm not that. But skill-level-wise, I have to be that much better."
LEAD MAN: Ask Al Jefferson knows good things happen when Gordon Hayward plays like he did Wednesday during his 29-point, six-assist outing.
"I don't remember one time he (has) been the leading scorer and we lost," Jefferson said.
Utah has a great, albeit not perfect, record in those contests. The Jazz are 5-2 when Hayward happens.
Jefferson knocked on his wooden locker after mentioning that Hayward is the only Jazz player to play in all 59 games.2 comments on this story
"He play a lot of minutes," Big Al said. "When we get on the plane, before we take off he's already asleep. It just show the type of heart he have."
NOT READY: Forward Jeremy Evans didn't dress Wednesday and isn't sure when he'll be able to play again after spraining his right ankle in Monday's game. He is sporting a walking boot and said he can't put too much pressure yet on his swollen ankle.
"I can walk on it and move, but taking it off, I can stand on it," Evans said. "But I want to be able to run and jump to my best."