I thought he did a great job on the defensive end of the floor. He was aggressive there. He's just going to continue to get better as he gets more comfortable and know what we're looking for. —Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When Blake Ahearn entered Saturday's game in the first half, there were likely pockets of cheering from the FedExForum to various spots in St. Louis.
The Utah Jazz's new guard had what he called "a decent-sized group" of family members and friends make the four-hour drive from his hometown in Missouri to watch him in person.
Ahearn's wife wasn't able to attend because she's still with their prematurely born daughter at a St. Louis hospital's newborn intensive care unit. His sister wasn't able to attend, either. But his mom and dad, who've attended games when he played for Miami and San Antonio, were there along with his in-laws, among others, including one particularly thrilled new Jazz fan.
"My little brother, he's 12. This is a big deal for him," Ahearn said prior to tipoff. "He's got his shirt on out there that he ordered online."
Fortunately for the Ahearn admirers, No. 2 made his Jazz debut in their presence.
Coach Tyrone Corbin called his number off the bench in the first half for the first time since the former D-League sharpshooter joined the team on a 10-day contract in time for Wednesday's game in Houston.
Ahearn ended up playing for five minutes, grabbing a rebound for his first stat as a Jazzman. He finished with two boards and one assist, which came on a fast break that rookie Alec Burks converted with flair.
Ahearn's only shot — a missed 3-pointer — came at the buzzer with Memphis' 103-98 win already in hand.
"He did good. I thought he executed well. He played hard," Corbin said. "I thought he did a great job on the defensive end of the floor. He was aggressive there. He's just going to continue to get better as he gets more comfortable and know what we're looking for."
Though he's still thrilled to be with the Jazz, part of Ahearn's heart remains in St. Louis with his wife, Ricki, and 3-week-old daughter, Blake Richelle. The couple's first baby weighed only 4 pounds 1 ounce when she was born on March 19, but she's gained 10 ounces since then and has received encouraging news after tests.
"We're excited about that," Ahearn said. "She's doing better, starting to eat a little more."
As for his wife, she stays at the hospital — but not during Jazz games. Ahearn said she was heading to the in-laws' house, where the NBA package is now on the TV, to watch this Utah-Memphis matchup.
New Jazz fans in St. Louis also have another host spot for Utah games: O'B Clark's. That's the bar and grill owned by Ahearn's uncle — and where his sister works — that has suddenly started showing Jazz games on its TVs.
"The past two nights they've had a whole lot of people up there watching," Ahearn said, smiling. "My sister bartends up there. She said there's a big group up there watching the Jazz. … She said some people come in with a puzzled look on their face like, 'Why are we watching the Utah Jazz?' "
Not the regulars, though.
"They all know what's going on," Ahearn said.
BITTERSWEET NIGHT:DeMarre Carroll was happy to be back where he began his NBA career for a night. The small forward was drafted out of Missouri by Memphis in the first round (27th overall) back in 2009.
"I was kind of a fan favorite here," Carroll said. "Everybody used to like me. It's good to see all the workers and stuff."
It ended up being a painful return.
Not only did the Jazz lose, but Carroll also left Tennessee with a mild concussion.1 comment on this story
The starter, who had six points and a steal, took an elbow to the mouth in the first half and had to have a tooth repositioned at halftime. That caused him to suffer a headache in the third quarter. He didn't return.
Postgame tests revealed a mild concussion, and he'll be re-evaluated Sunday in Utah.
MISC.: Forward Jeremy Evans tested his sprained right ankle before the game but was unable to play for the third straight game. … Small forward Josh Howard hopes to be given clearance to begin basketball activities on Monday — four weeks after his knee surgery. … The Jazz play four of their final five games at home, beginning Monday versus Dallas.