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That look on Kobe's face of pure shock is what we will be seeing for the next four or five years.
The shock that he is displaying is in response to the athletic and elite talent that keeps popping up in the NBA's Western Conference.
It seems that every year the Western Conference continues to get better and better.
Whether it is the increasingly dominant play of the young Grizzlies and Thunder or the overwhelming consistency of teams like the Spurs and Mavericks, it seems like the Western Conference can't be stopped—not even by Kobe Bryant.
The Western Conference is becoming a league led by the success of young and athletic talent. Kobe's athleticism is not in question, but it is without a doubt declining to the point where he cannot consistently hang with the youth of the league for an entire season.
A lot of people are saying that the shortened season will favor aging veterans because the season won't be as grueling for them.
I tend to think the opposite way—that the players who play with a high energy night in and night out will be the ones who benefit, because the season's length won't catch up to them.
No matter whom the shortened season favors, there is no doubting the fact that the Western Conference continues to get younger, more athletic and subsequently more dominant. Unfortunately for the Lakers, they are moving in a different direction, getting older, slower and less dominant.
The Lakers' inability to hang with the movement of the Western Conference will ultimately mean that Kobe's 2009-2010 championship will be his last.