Ty Lawson doesn't really do "inconspicuous." Invited to "surprise" a group of young athletes at John F. Kennedy High School in Denver on Monday, the Nuggets' starting point guard pulled up in a shiny white Bentley, ready to present 10 organizations with oversized checks.

The money was given on behalf of DICK'S Sporting Goods' inaugural "Sports Matter" event, of which Lawson served as a local ambassador to help youth organizations facing financial challenges stay afloat. This year the program helped more than 180 teams around the country raise $2 million before matching the donations for a total of $4 million.

Lawson, who credits sports and his days at a local YMCA near Clinton, Md., for getting him to where he is now — Bentley and all — presented 10 Colorado youth teams with checks totaling $130,000.

"Sports were everything to me when I was younger," Lawson said. "I stayed in the gym at the YMCA. Right after school, that's where I went, and it basically kept me out of trouble. It's where I lived at. There were a lot of things, from gangs to people selling drugs and stuff like that, so to keep me off the streets and involved in sports, it probably saved my life."

Now Lawson is just trying to return to the court. After injuring his ankle late last season, Lawson missed the Nuggets' final six games and has since struggled to return to complete health, though he says his ankle continues to improve.


"I think I'll be back in two more weeks," he said. "I'm just now starting to jog a little bit, so probably just two more weeks. By training camp I'll be back. I'll be back full-force probably by the middle of July, just going hard and playing five-on-five."

The Nuggets, who were hit hard with injuries to key players — Danilo Gallinari (ACL), JaVale McGee (leg fracture), Nate Robinson (ACL), J.J. Hickson (ACL) — finished with a 34-46 record last season and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003, making Brian Shaw's first season as a head coach a difficult one.

But getting his team healthy again may just be half the battle; getting them transitioned to the pace and rigor of an 82-game schedule may be the other. Hickson told The Post's Chris Dempsey on Monday that he is aiming to return at "some point" during training camp, but likely not before. And Gallinari and McGee sat out all of last season recovering, with Gallinari planning to work up to five-on-five, full-court games by late August or early September to, he hopes, be ready by training camp.

His absence, Lawson said, was huge.

"Having someone to create their own shot or helping someone else to create their shot — we got a little stagnant with that last season. And defense too. We have to pick it up on the defensive end."

The Nuggets may find some help in the June 26 draft, but finding a star, let alone an immediate contributor, at No. 11 will be hard to come by, even in such a stacked draft class.

In short, their health is everything right now.

"I think if we have everyone healthy, 100 percent healthy, the whole year, I think we can make a deep run in the playoffs," Lawson said. "The sky's the limit for us."

More from Lawson:

— He said has not yet reached out to Danny Green, his former teammate at North Carolina who won his first NBA championship Sunday as the Spurs routed the Heat.

"I'm going to North Carolina this weekend, and I'm pretty sure he's going to be down there," Lawson said. "I'm going down there for a few days to talk to coach (Roy Williams), and I got a clothing line coming out called Thrill City - you know, Chapel Hill ... Thrill City - so I'm going to go introduce that down there."

— Count Lawson among those who were taken off guard by Rashad McCants's statements to ESPN's "Outside the Lines." McCants, who played at UNC from 2002-05, said that tutors wrote his term papers, that he rarely went to class, that he took sham courses to stay academically eligible, and that coach Williams knew about those courses.

Many of McCants's UNC teammates issued a joint statement claiming their academic experiences were wholly unlike those of McCants. And on Monday, Lawson concurred: "That was just surprising, to say that he got grades like that," he said. "Because I know I didn't. So I don't know how he got the grades or the papers, but that's just his situation. That doesn't speak for the rest of us."

Contact Nicki Jhabvala by email at njhabvala@denverpost.com or on Twitter ( @NickiJhabvala)