I've been wondering recently if we're entering a new phase for the NBA, one where it is difficult for any one team to sustain their dominance from one year to another. From 1970 to 1987, no team won back-to-back championships, and when the Lakers finally managed it in '88, it was grueling. They had to go 7 games in each of the final three rounds, and were down 3-2 to our Pistons before pulling out games 6 and 7 -- by a combined four points -- to win the title. Then expansion happened. As I recall, the Hornets and the Heat were introduced in '88, while the Wolves (damn them for taking Mahorn away from us!) and the Magic were introduced in '89. Just as the league was beginning to adjust to these changes, the Raptors and the Grizzlies came into being in '95. Since then, it's been fairly quiet, with only the 'Cats joining the league in '04. Of course, these expansions had the effect of diluting the talent-pool via expansion drafts. I've wondered before whether that may in any way explain -- at least in part -- why repeating champions became the rule and not the exception almost as soon as these expansions began to take place. Consider: since these expansions started to occur, we have had the Pistons repeat, the Bulls threepeat, the Rockets repeat, the Bulls threepeat again, the Spurs winning the anomalous strike-shortened season, and the Lakers threepeat. Whereas in the last four years, we've had the Spurs, the Pistons, the Spurs again, and now someone different. Could it be that the talent-pool has finally adjusted itself to these new conditions, and that repeating as champions will once again become an especially rare and remarkable achievement?