DENVER – The influence of Peyton Manning even extends to the basketball court these days.
Recently, the Denver Broncos quarterback visited with speedy Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson, just one ball distributor chatting with another.
For 15 minutes or so, Lawson listened as the five-time NFL MVP explained how to lead a team, which basically boiled down to one crucial tenet: Work harder than everybody else.
So that's the intention of Lawson as the Nuggets try to rebound from an injury-riddled season in year two under coach Brian Shaw.
"Peyton gave me a new perspective about how hard people as great as him work," Lawson said. "How he takes practice so serious and things like that.
"After meeting him, I see why he's the all-time leading touchdown passer."
Manning's career stats now read like this: 510 TD passes and one big assist to the Nuggets.
Lawson believes he's poised to take the next step in his evolution as a point guard, possibly becoming an All-Star in the Western Conference. He posted the numbers to make the squad a year ago — finishing with 17.6 points a game and 8.8 assists — but the Nuggets didn't win enough for him to gain any sort of recognition. The team failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03.
"I won't be an All-Star unless we win games," Lawson said.
And the Nuggets won't win a lot of games unless Lawson plays at an All-Star level.
"Ty Lawson has All-Star ability," Shaw said. "Whether he takes that next step or not is completely and utterly up to him. That's going to come down to his commitment every day in practice."
Lawson certainly has a healthier cast surrounding him this season. Danilo Gallinari is back on the court for the first time since blowing out his left knee against Dallas on April 4, 2013.
Nate Robinson and J.J. Hickson are also on the comeback trail from knee injuries. JaVale McGee is getting stronger, too, after missing most of last year with a left tibia stress fracture.
In the offseason, the Nuggets traded for Arron Afflalo, just to add more veteran experience.
Then there's Kenneth Faried, who's soaring with confidence after leading Team USA to a gold medal at the Basketball World Cup this summer. His high-flying act also was rewarded as he agreed to a four-year, $50 million contract extension before training camp.
Still, the Nuggets are largely being overlooked this season by pundits. That's fine with Lawson.
"When we're top three in the West, they're going to know who we are," Lawson said.
Things to know about the Nuggets before they tip off the season by hosting Detroit on Oct. 29:
WELCOME BACK: The 6-foot-10 forward wearing No. 8 isn't a new free agent signing. Although, it almost seems that way. Gallinari is steadily recapturing his shooting touch after three knee surgeries kept him out of action for nearly 18 months. "I've been on the team a year, and have yet to play (a game) with Gallo," said Hickson, who will miss the first five games after being suspended by the NBA for violating the terms of the anti-drug program. "Fun to see him out here."
YEAR ONE, REDO?: Given the rash of injuries a year ago, Lawson believes this should count as Shaw's first season. "Coach was dealt with an empty deck," Lawson said. "So last season doesn't count."
BOSNIAN BEAR: The surprise of training camp has been the inside presence of rookie center Jusuf Nurkic, who was selected by Chicago with the 16th overall pick and dealt to Denver in a draft-night deal. The 7-footer uses his frame — a stout 279 pounds — to push around opponents. The team has nicknamed him the "Bosnian Bear." And while he will probably only play sparingly this season, the 20-year-old could be a future force down low. "A pleasant surprise," Shaw said.
LONG WAIT: McGee figured a stress fracture in his left tibia early last season would keep him out of action for six-to-eight weeks, not six-to-eight months. It's been a frustrating ordeal for the athletic big man. "Just got to get used to playing again, get my muscles back to running and jumping all the time," McGee said. He will split time with Timofey Mozgov, and perhaps even Nurkic.
RUN, RUN, RUN: After averaging 104 points last season, Shaw wants Lawson & Co. to speed things up even more. "We played at a fast pace last year," Shaw said. "We'll play an even faster pace this year."