Blake Ahearn has had a taste of life in the NBA, and he knows to get back, he has to prove he can play the point.
But with Maurice Baker in the lineup, the Wizards couldn't guarantee Ahearn a set number of minutes at the point. So instead of bringing one of the best players in franchise history back into the fold, at Ahearn's request the Wizards signed him and shipped him to the Bakersfield Jam for power forward James "Boo" Jackson on Monday.
"It was a hard thing for me to do," Ahearn said. "Dakota is where I got started, and I'm leaving a lot of familiar people behind. But I've learned quickly in this business that you have to do what's best for you. "... For me (point guard) is where I see myself in the NBA," he added. "I think people know my ability to shoot the ball, but they want to see if I can play the point. I think going to a place where I have a chance to do that is the best for me and my chances. It's strictly a basketball decision."
Ahearn had been playing in Spain, but returned home in December. The Wizards retained Ahearn's D-League rights and naturally wanted to bring him back. But coach Rory White said he couldn't guarantee Ahearn would play the point.
"He wants to play the point guard, but we have Mo Baker," White said. "... The door was open for Blake to come back. But he felt that he wanted to play somewhere else, so we had to do something that would help us going forward."
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In his first two seasons, Ahearn established himself as one the D-League's top guards. In 2007-08, Ahearn averaged 19.0 points and made 108 3-pointers, winning the D-League's rookie of the year award. Last season he was first-team all-league, averaging 22.2 points per game and setting a league record with 143 3-pointers. He earned an NBA call-up in each of his first two seasons, first with the Miami Heat, then with the San Antonio Spurs.
The 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward out of Eastern Michigan, will be playing for his third team this season. The 28-year-old played eight games with the Los Angeles D-Fenders before playing the last 10 with Bakersfield. He has started five of those games, averaging 11.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per night.
Although Jackson's resume isn't nearly as impressive as Ahearn's, White said he feels that Jackson will still help the Wizards.
"They're all minor league players, and they're all trying to improve," White said. "I'm not worried about trying to rank their ability. I'm more worried about how well they can help the team than what they've done in the past."
White said Jackson's play will determine his role on the Wizards.
"He's got to earn his minutes," White said. "He's got to work his way in."
Jackson is expected to arrive in Bismarck today and be in the lineup for Thursday's game against the Iowa Energy.
As for Ahearn, he could be returning to the Civic Center as well. Bakersfield comes to Bismarck on Feb. 9 and 10.
"Hopefully I'll be in the NBA by then," Ahearn said. "If not it will be a great chance to come back to Bismarck and thank them. It's not going to be as fun without those fans."
The Wizards also cut Jimmie Binnie, who averaged 5.5 points in 17 games.