Feature | Basketball

Facu Campazzo: "I can't wait for the Tokyo Olympic Games."

Facundo Campazzo is living his NBA dream at the Denver Nuggets and says a season with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray will take his game to the next level.

By Ken Browne ·

"Facundo Campazzo," he pronounces for the media on his first day at Denver Nuggets training, "but you can call me Facu."

There's plenty of excitement around the 29-year-old Argentinian point guard's move from Real Madrid to the Nuggets to play with Serbian big man Nikola Jokic and fellow guard Jamal Murray.

Facu may only measure up at 1.80m (5'11) tall but more than makes up for what he lacks in height with skill, speed, passion and vision.

It's been love at first sight for the fans and Nuggets' coach Michael Malone is "thrilled".

Speaking to journalists on a media call, he said, “What I love about Facu is this: You cannot judge him by his size, his heart is huge; he plays with a great amount of passion and pride.”

'El Mago' brings much more than just magic to the court:

A shot-making, match-winning, buzzer-beating, jaw-dropping enabler with assists best described as works of art and highly contagious energy and commitment, he's a basketball player who can lift a team and inspire everyone around him:

"When I get depressed, I might just put on Facu highlights, because it puts a smile on my face,” Malone says.

When Olympic Channel asks Facu about the Olympics he talks about inspirations Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, what he learned from 'The Golden Generation', and how playing in the NBA can help raise his game before Tokyo 2020.

"Now that I'm here (In the NBA) I think it can help me get to the next level as a player." - Facundo Campazzo

Facundo Campazzo joins the Denver Nuggets

Seven new additions rocked up on Day 1 to the Nuggets training camp, among them Facundo Campazzo.

Malone tells the story, laughing, that Jokic was unhappy at the highlight reels of all the new players flashing up on screen at the first team meeting.

Why? One was a typically impossible pass against Jokic's Serbia at the 2019 World Cup in China.

Campazzo helped mastermind a 97-87 Argentina win in the quarter-finals, and the Nuggets' star centre was not best pleased at being reminded of it.

But the big man is sure to forget all that when Campazzo's wizardly assists help him rack up the points as two of the best passers in the business connect.

“He makes plays that most people don't think about or see. He's like Nikola in that regard,” says coach Malone.

After the Nuggets performed heroics in the play-offs last term - twice coming back from 3-1 down before losing to eventual champs LA Lakers in the Western Conference finals - this year they'll want to build further with a young team that held on to two of its biggest stars.

And Campazzo is part of the plan.

“On offense, I think he has to be a top-five pick-and-roll player in the world,” coach Malone continues.

“The guy is not a good passer; he’s a great passer. He makes all of his teammates better, he’s extremely unselfish, and that’s why I think he is a seamless fit into our culture.

“When he gets a chance to get on the floor and play. I think our fans – I don't see how you can not fall in love with a young guy like Facu." - Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone

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Facu inspired by the Golden Generation

The successes have been piling up for Campazzo over recent years:

Three-time Spanish and three-time Euroleague champ with Real Madrid, 2019 Pan American Games champion and a silver medal at the 2019 World Cup with Argentina, among a plethora of trophies, titles and MVP awards.

Malone admitted that the Nuggets have had their eye on Campazzo for a while and, after the 2019 he had, the NBA outfit and the player finally decided the time was right.

But you can go back to Athens 2004 to find the Argentinian's greatest source of inspiration - the stunning victory over the USA Dream team including the likes of Tim Duncan, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony.

Argentina's semi-final win was the first time the USA had failed to win gold since Michael Jordan and the original Dream Team at Barcelona 1992 heralded a new era of Olympic basketball featuring NBA household names.

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“I was a boy when that golden generation won the gold medal in Athens," Campazzo remembers.

"I was still in school, we watched it at school and listened on the radio. That generation had a huge influence on our generation, I had the luck to play with them at London 2012, and I learned those values from them. It was contagious, the hard work, the respect, solidarity, being united as a team."

One of that generation will join Campazzo in Tokyo with Luis Scola planning one last dance at the Japan Olympics.

"We went to the World Cup with that mentality and did very well. Now that I'm here (in the NBA), I think it can help me get to the next level as a player, to improve also as a team player."

At the World Cup, Argentina finished runners-up to a Spain side inspired by Ricky Rubio.

And hopes will be high at the Tokyo Games as they bid for a first Olympic medal since bronze at Beijing 2008.

Facu knows that playing in the best league on the planet will up his game before the rescheduled Games roll around.

"Playing with a team like the Denver Nuggets will raise your game, a hundred percent, it helps you become a better competitor, and now I just can't wait for Tokyo in 2021."