NBA trending: Lakers to play Timberwolves in Christmas finale

A look at what’s trending in the NBA:

To you, from NBA

The NBA’s Christmas present will be five nationally televised games in succession Monday.

The schedule starts at 9 a.m. PST with Joel Embiid’s likely Christmas debut in Philadelphia at New York on ESPN and continues with an ABC tripleheader featuring a noon NBA Finals rematch of Cleveland at Golden State, the first Christmas three-peat appearance since the Lakers and Miami Heat were Christmas fixtures from 2004 to 2006.

ABC then airs Washington at Boston at 2:30 p.m. in the Celtics’ first home Christmas game and Houston at Oklahoma City at 5 p.m.

TNT offers the Christmas nightcap of Minnesota visiting the Lakers for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.

The ESPN/ABC holiday event features novelties, like the ESPN App showing layup lines for the first four games, “Hamilton’s” Daveed Diggs starring in and narrating an NBA-themed version “Carol of the Bells” and Kobe Bryant’s newest Musecage Basketball Network short video, “The Arc,” airing on the 8 a.m. “NBA Countdown” show on ESPN.

Hall of Fame locks

Ray Allen, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash were announced Thursday as nominees for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

They might as well have been announced for 2018 enshrinement.

Allen, Kidd and Nash are locks to be first-ballot Hall of Famers with Allen’s spot atop the career three-pointers list, Kidd’s 107 triple-doubles and Nash’s two MVP awards. Kidd and Nash also rank second and third, respectively, for career assists behind John Stockton.

The debate comes after that trio. Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton and Grant Hill also are first-time nominees (no Rasheed Wallace?) while Tim Hardaway, Jack Sikma and Chris Webber remain viable holdover candidates. Hill lost prime seasons to injury but still holds the best chance with the help of his two NCAA championships at Duke and an Olympic gold medal to offset a short playoff resume.

Two years after dropping the eligibility requirement from five full seasons of retirement to four, the Hall of Fame reduced it against last week to three years and cleared the way for Nash’s and Allen’s eligibility.

I.T. sighting

What is known about Cleveland guard Isaiah Thomas: He was projected to return around the new year, he warmed up with Cavaliers teammates before Thursday’s game and he has been ruled out for Christmas’ NBA Finals rematch against Golden State.

What is not known about Thomas’ return: when his Cleveland debut will be.

Thomas has not played since aggravating a hip injury during the Eastern Conference finals in late May.

Two appropriate return nights could be when Cleveland plays Wednesday at Sacramento, his NBA home for his first three seasons, or Jan. 2 when Cleveland next plays at home.

In his behind-the-scenes “Book of Isaiah II” series on The Players Tribune, Thomas revealed his reaction to getting the August trade news from Boston president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.

“What are you talking about?” Thomas said on the video shortly after returning to his Seattle home from a wedding anniversary trip. “My kids about to start school. Off the strength, after everything I went through (expletive). Like no, you’re not supposed to do that. But it’s … I mean, if that’s what he wants. Danny’s like that. But I mean, I’m not trippin’. It’s just crazy that they would do that. Like, I’m not mad. … I’d be mad if I went to a weak-ass team. But it’s like, we gonna win the Finals anyway. Like, that’s what’s crazy. But it’s just like, damn, after all I do for … the city gonna be mad as (expletive).”

Not quite bullish on the Bulls

Chicago made an unprecedented turnaround this month, becoming the first NBA team to follow a 10-game losing streak with a seven-game winning streak.

And all it got the Bulls was a move from 15th place to 14th in the Eastern Conference.

Chicago has a long way to go for immediate relevance. but there is optimism with the inside-out play of Nikola Mirotic, now that he has recovered from Bobby Portis-induced facial fractures, and the possibility that Chicago has found its long-sought point guard in Kris Dunn.

The Bulls’ seven-game winning streak ended Thursday with a 115-112 loss at Cleveland but did not remove the damage of a 3-20 start or Chicago fans’ hopes of a high draft lottery spot.

Looking ahead

CLEVELAND at GOLDEN STATE

Monday at noon, PST. TV: Channel 7.

It is not a true potential preview of the NBA Finals without injured point guards Stephen Curry and Isaiah Thomas. but the game still packs firepower. MVP candidates LeBron James and Kevin Durant duel when Draymond Green is not covering James. There is a rivalry from three consecutive NBA Finals meetings but a qualified one, considering that James, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson are the only current Cavaliers who played in each of those Finals.

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