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Facu Campazzo is a fireball, a disruptor and exactly what the Nuggets needed

Harrison Wind Avatar
December 13, 2020

The biggest question I have for Facu Campazzo after his rousing 24-minute Nuggets debut Saturday against the Golden State Warriors is can he do that for 72 games?

Campazzo was a lighting rod of energy in Denver’s preseason opener, a 107-105 loss. His effort level was on par with what you’d expect to see in the Finals or a Game 7, not an opening preseason matchup. Campazzo finished tied for a Nuggets team-high in minutes and chipped in eight points and three assists, but his contributions went well beyond the box score. Campazzo brought it for every second that he played.

He changed the flow of the game with his spirited play on both ends of the floor. Campazzo connected with rookie RJ Hampton on a one-handed frozen rope in the fourth and helped lead a 29-18 fourth-quarter run that took the Nuggets from down double-digits to all-square with the Warriors at 97 with five minutes remaining. Denver ultimately had a chance for a come-from-behind win, but Vlatko Cancar’s three-pointer with 2.9 seconds left missed.

“We’ll find out,” Malone said when asked postgame if Campazzo can play with that level of energy every night for an entire season. “It’s in his nature. It’s in his DNA.”

Malone wasn’t surprised by the intensity Campazzo played with Saturday. Denver’s coach has studied Campazzo closely and was an avid watcher of his games for Real Madrid and Argentina over the last few seasons. He’s well aware that Campazzo only knows how to operate in top gear.

“It’s my game. I try to do my best always,” Campazzo said. “Put my 100%, my heart, my passion for the game. I just want to give that for my teammates.”

If he can bring the same passion to the floor every night that he did Saturday, Denver will be in business. Campazzo’s intangibles are exactly what this iteration of the Nuggets needed. He’s as unselfish as they come but a fiery competitor who knows how to play his role and hates to lose. You saw his fight firsthand against the Warriors. Campazzo badly wanted to win his first NBA game even if it was just a paltry preseason matchup.

“He’s going to leave it all out on the floor,” Malone said.

“Playing hard is a skill.”

Malone unveiled a 10-man rotation Saturday that featured Campazzo on Denver’s second unit playing mostly next to Monte Morris. It’s a look that the Nuggets have been excited to explore since agreeing to a contract with Campazzo three weeks ago. Offensively, a bench lineup built around Campazzo, Morris and a pick-and-roll big in Isaiah Hartenstein should excel. Defensively, there will be questions. PJ Dozier, who played small forward on the second unit Saturday, will need to help make up for a smaller Campazzo-Morris backcourt with his length.

But don’t discount the 5-foot-11 Campazzo as a defender. He’s as pesky as they come and his sporadic full-court presses and continuous ball pressure Saturday frustrated Warriors guards at times.

“He has a lot of passion for the game,” Hartenstein said. “It’s all the little stuff he does defensively, how he passes the ball and his IQ.”

Campazzo will have to adjust to the added length and increased athleticism of the NBA, but he’s confident his game will translate. The 29-year-old has played at the highest levels in Europe and around the globe for his entire professional career. He won’t be intimidated by any opponent either.

Campazzo’s also in game shape, which not all of his teammates may be able to claim. He played 22 games for Real Madrid this season before arriving in Denver and only 20 days separated his last game in Spain and Saturday’s preseason opener.

His first game with the Nuggets fulfilled a lifelong dream.

“It was amazing. It was a dream for me to come true. I was waiting for this time for my entire career.”

Campazzo’s minutes were so loud that it overshadowed a dominant performance from Nikola Jokic, who poured in 26 points to go with 10 rebounds and five assists in 23 minutes of work.

“He was telling guys where to be. He was talking to coach. He started understanding. He started to open up. Do you know his stat line? I really want to know that. He had eight points. He had three assists and he had one rebound,” Jokic said reading Campazzo’s totals off the box score. “I thought that he did everything on the floor.”

It was a very encouraging first showing for Campazzo considering the fact that he only had four official group practices to establish a rapport with his teammates ahead of Denver’s preseason opener. It could be a scary sight for opposing defenses once he eventually builds a chemistry with a talented Nuggets roster.

“We just need a little,” Jokic said searching for the right word before snapping his fingers. “Then we’re going to click. Then we’re going to be really good.”


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