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TY LAWSON IS SO FAST THAT THE ROOKIE POINT GUARD IS ALREADY THE NUGGETS' BEST SHOT AT DETHRONING THE LAKERS.

TY LAWSON IS SO FAST that when he was 4 he matched his age in goals in his first soccer game for the Andrews Air Force Base Terminators. Makes sense. His mom, Jackie Lawson, was the anchor leg on her high school relay team. But even she had trouble keeping up with her son as the Terminators' videographer. "If you blinked, you missed something," she says. "He'd take the ball from one end to the other and score."

TY LAWSON IS SO FAST that at 11 he joined his dad, George Lawson, a tech sergeant at Andrews AFB near DC, for airmen's pickup games. "At first, nobody wanted him," says George. "At the base, guys stand on the side and talk trash while you're playing. But Ty just killed one guy. Then it was, 'Yeah, I'll pick the young fella.'"

TY LAWSON IS SO FAST that standard modes of transportation cannot satisfy. "I used to ride my moped down a steep hill near my UNC apartment," Lawson says. "That scooter supposedly went only 35, but I swear I could get it up to 60." His amusement park ride of choice? The Joker's Jinx at Six Flags America in Prince George's County, Maryland. "Zero to 60 in three seconds," he says.

TY LAWSON IS SO FAST that the Nuggets would have taken him in the first round if Lawson had come out after his sophomore season, in 2008, as planned. But weeks before the draft he was cited for driving after underage drinking, and he returned to school. Even after Lawson injured a toe at the end of UNC's title run last year, Denver GM Mark Warkentien didn't waver. He traded for Lawson on draft night, after Minnesota picked the point guard 18th overall. "We were convinced that the combination of Ty's speed and Denver's mile-high altitude would be double trouble for opponents," says Warkentien. "The first time I saw him, I thought, This cat is a one-man fast break."

TY LAWSON IS SO FAST that teammate Kenyon Martin has yet to catch him and make good on his promise to haze him by wrapping him in plastic wrap and dumping him in the cold tub, says Lawson.

TY LAWSON IS SO FAST that George Karl had to put Lawson on the floor immediately. Says Karl: "The vets on the team came to me after playing with him before camp and said, 'You're going to have to play this rookie.'" In his NBA debut, Lawson rewarded Karl with 17 points and six assists in 26 minutes. For the season, he's spelling Chauncey Billups for 22 minutes a game, averaging 9.5 ppg and 3.5 apg. "He has the speed to play a Chris Paul or Tony Parker," says Karl. "And we haven't had that."

TY LAWSON IS SO FAST that Billups can't recall having a faster teammate in 13 years as a pro. "When he stops and goes I smell rubber sometimes," says Billups. "He's certainly the fastest guy I've played with who makes so few mistakes. Most guys, when they hit top speed, they're out of control. He's straight up, surveying everything coming at him."

TY LAWSON IS SO FAST that he's already made good on Warkentien's one-man fast break tag. Karl went with a three-guard lineup for most of the fourth quarter in a Feb. 5 road win over the Lakers. Lawson played in nine of the period's 12 minutes, recording a steal and four points in 25 seconds. Kobe & Co. never recovered as the Nuggets won 126-113.

TY LAWSON IS SO FAST that he's turned hoops into his own private Matrix. "In high school and my first year in college, I just went full speed, looking at the guy in front of me," says Lawson. "Now I don't worry about him. I look at the second and third lines of defense." In the waning moments of a 105-79 beatdown of the Lakers Nov. 13, Lawson went by LA guard Shannon Brown as if, well, he didn't see him. He then quickly recognized that seven-foot center DJ Mbenga was too far from the rim to block his shot and weakside defender Josh Powell was too far from the paint to draw a charge. Result: The YouTube sensation of the 5'11" Lawson crushing a dunk over Mbenga and Powell. "All I want to see are my offensive players," says Lawson. "Those are my tools to getting us a bucket." That, and his speed, of course.