Benigno: Nets Have To Win It All With Durant And Irving; Next Year Is All About Winning

Stars Are Ruled Out Rest Of Season

Joe & Evan
February 21, 2020 - 3:17 pm

The Brooklyn Nets are without Kyrie Irving for the rest of the season. They're also without small forward Kevin Durant, who continues to mount his comeback from an Achilles injury. 

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On Thursday, Nets general manager Sean Marks confirmed Irving will miss the remainder of the season. He's expected to have season-ending surgery to repair a nagging shoulder injury. Brooklyn spent nearly $70 million between Irving and Durant for 20 games this season. WFAN's Joe Benigno says it's championship or bust for the Nets moving forward.  

"It would've been a wise move to shut (Irving) down anyway," Benigno said. "It's all about next year. We know that with the Nets. This year — they'll make the playoffs. They'll be the seventh or eighth seed and like I said yesterday, it will help guys like (Caris) LeVert, (Spencer) Dinwiddie and (Jarrett) Allen, all of these guys getting more exposure as far as the playoff situation is concerned. Next year, it's all about winning and they've got to win it all. At some point, they've got to win it all with Kevin Durant. I don't think there's any grey area."

Durant, twice named NBA Finals MVP, reiterated it would take a season's length to recover from last year's ruptured Achilles. The 31-year-old told Bleacher Report's Taylor Rooks the best thing for him was to continue his rehab process and "get as strong as I can and focus on next season."

John Jastremski, filling in for Evan Roberts, believes Brooklyn's championship aspirations fall solely on the shoulders of Durant.

"You're not winning a championship with Kyrie Irving as your No. 1 player," Jastremski said. "I think that's obvious. I think we saw with the Boston Celtics. We saw it for a handful of games with the Brooklyn Nets. The bottom line is this: you need Kyrie Irving to be that ultimate Robin. He can absolutely play that role. But for Durant coming back off the Achilles, is he going to be able to hit the ground running and be a guy that's in that conversation with Giannis and Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James.

"Because if he's not and he's a shell of the player he once was, then this Brooklyn Nets team is not going to do a whole lot of winning. They'll be a mediocre, fridge, four or fifth seed team with no championship window. You need Durant to be Durant in order to have a chance to win a championship."

Brooklyn (25-29) currently occupies seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Durant and Irving have a three-year window to win a championship in Brooklyn. The duo will become unrestricted free agents in 2023. 

"That's what it's all about for the Nets," Benigno said. "Like I said, there's no grey area. If they don't win a title I know my partner (Evan Roberts) feels this way, it's not worth it. What good was it if they don't go all the way?"

Click the audio player above to listen to Joe Benigno and John Jastremski's open in its entirety