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NBA

Campazzo’s nightmare season comes to an end

The Argentine guard’s contract with the Nuggets is at an end but he is determined to continue in the NBA despite having endured a difficult season. His second option is returning to Real Madrid.

Update:
Facundo Campazzo
Christian PetersenGetty Images

End of the road for the Denver Nuggets. It’s been a difficult season for Michael Malone’s team. Jamal Murray suffered an ACL tear last April and in spite of the constant rumours about his return, he didn’t played a single minute of the regular season and missed all of the last two playoffs - 2021 and 2022. Michael Porter Jr underwent surgery on his back in November after just nine games of the regular season, and has also yet to return. Without two of their three best players, the Nuggets just managed to avoid the play-in (they finished sixth in the Eastern with 48 wins), basically thanks to the magic of Nikola Jokic, who has all the credentials to pick up his second consecutive MVP.

In the playoffs, the Nuggets did as best as they could and fought to the final, but the crude reality was that they were outclassed in their series against the Warriors, which ended 4-1. The season is over and decisions about the team need to be made. JaMychal Green is out of contract (he has a player option for around 7.6 million dollars, so he will be the one who decides); then there are the cases of DeMarcus Cousins, Austin Rivers, Bryn Forbes… and Facundo Campazzo. The Argentinean point guard has now completed the two seasons he signed up for with the Nuggets in exchange for 6.4 million dollars (6.2M guaranteed plus extras). Now he’s a free agent. The Nuggets could, in theory, execute a qualifying offer for 4 million dollars to keep Campazzo in Denver for another year. If they don’t, the guard will be free to join the team of his choice.

The qualifying offer does not depend on what the player wants. The Nuggets could match any offer that comes in for him to keep him, and if no offers materialise, keep him on the books next season for 4 million. But it’s quite obvious that Campazzo’s future is not with the Nuggets. During the playoffs, he didn’t even total 14 minutes on court over five games. Michael Malone spoke about using the Argentinean’s energy when the series was at 2-0 and switched from San Francisco to Colorado, but he hardly figured even when the Nuggets were at home. In Game 5, he didn’t even reach four minutes on-court. Campazzo’s figures this season are a world away from the ones he posted in last year’s playoffs: 27 minutes over two games with an average of 9.3 points, 3 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.

Frozen out in Denver

Campazzo became increasingly left out in the cold to the point where he was essentially left out of the team rotation altogether during the first few months of the competition when questions were raised about Denver’s second string and the problems the team had whenever they were without Nikola Jokic. In January, he played 16 games, in of them, 13 at least 19 minutes; he averaged 20.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists. After that, eight games in February, five in March and two in April, before the playoffs. That is not a good sign in a team without their regular point guard, Jamal Murray, and who also lost PJ Dozier - traded back in January. In the last game against the Warriors, even Austin Rivers’ injury didn’t open a window of opportunity for Campazzo.

He faces uncertainty over his future this summer but Campazzo is keen to stay in the NBA. It’s his dream, a move he has gambled on and he doesn’t want to let it slip away so easily. He’s 31 and knows that if he leaves, there will be no way back to the US. His inner circle are relaxed about the situation because, in spite of this season’s problems, there are options open to him in the NBA. The sport side of his career is imperative, but so is the economic side. He is still paying installments of the 6 million euros buy-out he owes for leaving Real Madrid. His salary this season, not including taxes, is around 2 million. So he has to look at the best possible option in terms of wages… in the NBA.

If remaining in the best basketball league in the world isn’t possible, he will study the possibility of returning to Real Madrid. The Spanish club needs to rebuild and bring in new guards but Facu’s return would be a complex operation. He has left the door open, but plan A is the NBA. A few days ago he spoke to the Liga Endesa: “I don’t know what will happen. I want to continue in the NBA if I can. If my talent allows me to. We’ll see. Real Madrid has always been a home from home for me, so I could go back if the want me. For now, I’m taking things with calm, I have a couple of months to wait before I start getting anxious,” he explained.

He added that he likes counting on the support of his family in the stands. “I really appreciate it when they come. My cousin started crying when he saw me play. My mother was really nervous. I enjoy it a lot, from the moment I wake up in the morning. The NBA makes you enjoy everything”. Campazzo also said he had to adapt his game to fit in with how it is played in the States: “During my career, I’ve always been a guard who had the ball in his hands. Here, you need to run a lot more. Our point guard is the center (Nikola Jokic). So I have tried to improve aspects such as my movement without the ball. I think I have done that compared to my first season. I love playing bit I also want to learn - it’s a constant learning process. I want to play, but even when I am not among the starters I want to be ready. If I don’t play, I’ll train harder. I am in the NBA and that’s what I’ve always wanted”.

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