Steinmetz: West's dominance won't last

There is no debate when it comes to the disparity between conferences. The only real argument is just how much better the NBA’s Western Conference is than the Eastern Conference.

The issue, though, is the assumption that many of the Western Conference playoff teams are good and they’re going to be good for a while, and that the dominance will continue.

Not so fast. A quick look at the landscape suggests otherwise. All eight Western Conference playoff teams won 50 or more games this season. Expect four of those teams to take a step back in 2008-09.

» Dallas: Now that the Mavericks have lost their quarterfinal series to New Orleans, owner Mark Cuban would seem to have little choice but to make wholesale changes — likely starting with coach Avery Johnson.

Think about it. Two years ago, the Mavericks led the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals 2-0 and were in command during Game 3. They lost that game — and the next three.

The following season, the Mavs rededicate, win 67 games, but get exposed by the eighth-seeded Warriors. This season, the Mavs acquired the aging Jason Kidd, but they have not gotten better; worse, in fact.

Their go-to guy, Dirk Nowitzki, has credibility issues and perhaps their best player, Josh Howard, just admitted to offseason marijuana use. If the Mavs bring back Johnson, Nowitzki and Howard, they will be worse next season.

Cuban may consider simply starting over.

» Denver: Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson form the league’s highest-scoring duo, but this roster has maxed out. Iverson continues to be a wonder, but he takes too many shots and is on the downside of his career. Marcus Camby’s tank is running dry.

It’s obvious coach George Karl isn’t crazy about coaching this team and the team doesn’t seem crazy about his coaching. With Anthony, Iverson, Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith, this team is every bit as unpredictable as the Warriors.

The Nuggets aren’t really the kind of team, either, willing to make the necessary sacrifice and commitment to get better.

» Phoenix: Suns president Steve Kerr took a gamble by trading for Shaquille O’Neal. It wasn’t the worst idea in the world, but it’s apparent Phoenix isn’t going to the Finals anytime soon.

O’Neal is now on the Suns’ books for three more seasons at ridiculous money and there is no doubt he is slowing at a rapid rate. Steve Nash is 34 years old, has a troublesome back and has played in a ton of high-intensity games the past few seasons.

Nash is still very good, but he’s certainly not getting any better at this stage.

» Houston: The Rockets had a great regular season — despite the injury to Yao Ming — highlighted by a 22-game winning streak. But what do they do now … sit tight, wait for Yao to return and go at it again next season?

That doesn’t seem likely. The Rockets were OK when Yao and McGrady were both in thelineup, but just OK. They were terrific in the early stages without Yao, but it seemed obvious it wasn’t going to last.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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