Basketball fans in the Bay Area rallied around local hero and newly christened Golden State Warrior Jeremy Lin this season, his first in the NBA. Asian Americans have taken prominent roles behind the scenes of professional basketball (Erik Spoelstra, head coach of the Miami Heat, took his team all the way to the finals this year, and Rich Cho was just hired as general manager of the Charlotte Bobcats), but it was refreshing to see an Asian American on the court this year. And Lin's first season shows promising signs for a successful pro career.
I had a chance to talk with Golden State Warriors guard Jeremy Lin shortly after he made his NBA debut back in October. The Warriors had just defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 109-91 before a sold-out hometown crowd on Asian Heritage Night, and the fans were on their feet the entire time the rookie was on the floor.
"I’m so proud to be Asian American and to be able to be here," Lin told me after the game. "I’m thankful to God for everything that He's allowed and blessed me with. I’m thankful to my parents and everyone -- my brothers, my friends and my coaches -- that has helped me get to this point."
With the Dallas Mavericks winning the championship over the Miami Heat on Sunday, the NBA season has officially come to an end. That means Lin’s rookie season is over, and he now has to prepare for his second year with the Warriors. It’s an opportunity for him to make an impact with the team and improve his overall game.
Lin has come a long way to realizing his NBA dream. Raised in Palo Alto as a Warriors fan, Lin went to Harvard to craft his skills as a guard. He went undrafted, but latched onto the Dallas Mavericks' summer league squad in the hopes of receiving a contract. The Warriors were impressed, and Lin decided to sign with his hometown team to fulfill his NBA dream.
Basketball has always been a passion to sports fans in the Bay Area. The Warriors have a packed house for nearly all their home games. And when Lin returned home, there was a tremendous buzz throughout the Asian American community. It was great to see “one of our own” make it in the NBA. The interest in the Warriors among Asians in the Bay Area grew throughout the season.
Jerseys, shirts, photos and anything with Lin’s name were being sold at the team store. Deafening cheers filled the arena every time Lin stepped onto the court. It was an overwhelming collection of support for the local hero.
I thought that it was pretty neat that Lin was getting a lot of attention, but as a fan, I worried that it might be too much for a third-string rookie point guard. It seemed like that it had an effect on him early in the season. Lin underperformed and was sent to the Developmental League on a few occasions during the season to focus on improving his game.
It took a while, but Lin was able to bounce back. When he was called back up to the roster in late March, Lin saw increased playing time. During the team’s final regular season game, he broke out with his best performance.
Against the Portland Trailblazers, Lin logged in a season-high 24 minutes while recording 12 points, five assists, five rebounds and two steals in the winning effort. He had come a long way to get this point, and it was a great way to end an incredible journey.
Lin appeared in 29 games overall in his debut year with the Warriors. His minutes increased towards the end of the season, and he started playing with the team’s second unit. He will have to carry over that momentum into an impressive summer to show the Warriors’ coaching staff that he’s ready to be a valuable role player.
Hyphen interviewed Jeremy Lin last fall – click here for the story.
Samuel Lam is the San Francisco 49ers beat writer for Examiner.com.