PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) — Jeremy Lin, the Palo Alto native, former Golden State Warrior and now guard for the Toronto Raptors, is returning to the Bay Area to face off with his old team in the NBA Finals.

The appearance in the championship will be the first time for both Lin and the Raptors.

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“Such an up and down journey for him over the last nine years with seven different teams. But he’s improved a ton, and has a real nice feel for the game,” said Peter Diepenbrock, Lin’s former basketball coach at Palo Alto High School.

Diepenbrock and Lin talk regularly, and the former sent Lin a quick text shortly after the Eastern Conference Finals game on Saturday that advanced Toronto to the championship.

“I just sent a congratulations, and ‘What a fun ride,’ ‘Enjoy the finals,’ type of thing, and, ‘We’ll see you soon out here,’” said Diepenbrock.

Lin made his NBA debut in 2010 as the first Asian-American to play in the NBA in 63 years, checking in to a warm reception at Oracle. The first Asian-American to play in the league was Wat Misaka in 1947.

Lin was later traded to the New York Knicks and went on a dynamic six-week run of high scoring games and dramatic moments, dubbed “Linsanity.”

The New York Times remarked that Lin was the “most popular player in a decade.”

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“You know, everyone looks back at that time very fondly, and loves to reminisce about what an incredible five or six weeks,” said Diepenbrock.

Lin would go on to play on a total of seven different teams, playing about half the time as a starter, averaging 11.8 points per game.

In the 2017 season opener for the Brooklyn Nets, Lin injured his right knee on a layup and missed the rest of the season. Lin has since returned to the Bay Area to rehab during the summer.

Diepenbrock says Lin has evolved into a more mature and experienced player.

“Just much more aware of all the things that can happen in life. He’s had so many ups and downs with so many different coaches and injuries, I just think he’s had a lot of life experiences. And he’s become a very resilient person,” said Diepenbrock.

In the postseason with the raptors, Lin saw very limited minutes off the bench, prompting Charles Barkley to declare “We talked about it. I think they should put Jeremy Lin in the game.”

“The cheer that we would get at Oracle, if he were to get in, that would be an awesome moment for sure,” said Diepenbrock, “To be in the Finals, something tells me with his story and the way things have gone for him, something tells me we haven’t heard the last from him this season. I think he’s going to find a way to get in a game and make a difference.”

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