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On July 21, 2010, Lin signed a two-year deal with his hometown Warriors. Lin's deal was partially guaranteed for the 2010–11 NBA season, and the Warriors held a team option for the second season. Lin also signed a three-year guaranteed contract with Nike.
The Warriors held a press conference for Lin after his signing, with national media in attendance. "It was surprising to see that ... for an undrafted rookie," said then-Warriors coach Keith Smart. The San Jose Mercury News wrote that Lin "had something of a cult following" after his signing. The San Francisco Bay Area, with its large Asian-American population, celebrated his arrival. He became the first American of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA.
Lin was appreciative of the support he received from fans, especially from the Asian-American community, but he preferred to concentrate on his play. Lin received little playing time during the season because two dominant ball-handling guards, Curry and Monta Ellis, starred for the Warriors. Lin started the regular season on the Warriors' inactive list, but made his NBA debut the next game during the Warriors' Asian Heritage Night. He received a standing ovation when he entered the game in the final minutes. In the next game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Lin scored his first NBA basket, had three assists, and recorded four steals. He played 11 of his 16 minutes in the third quarter and committed five fouls but played a role in a 12–1 run by the Warriors in a 107–83 loss to the defending NBA champions. At Toronto on November 8, the Raptors held Asian Heritage Night to coincide with Lin's visit with the Warriors. Over 20 members of Toronto's Chinese media covered the game.
Three times during the season, Lin was assigned to the Warriors' D-League affiliate, the Reno Bighorns. Each time, he was later recalled by the Warriors. He competed in the NBA D-League Showcase and was named to the All-NBA D-League Showcase First Team on January 14, 2011. In 20 games, he averaged 18 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists with Reno.
The Warriors saw Lin as a potential backup for Curry. Lacob said the team received more than one trade offer for Lin while he was in the D-League, adding: "He's a minimum, inexpensive asset. You need to look at him as a developing asset. Is he going to be a superstar? No." He finished his rookie NBA season averaging 2.6 points on 38.9 percent shooting in 29 games.