Steve Hess' plan is to out-altitude the altitude. "If you want to overload the system, to take advantage of altitude, train slightly higher," said Hess, the Nuggets' longtime strength and conditioning coach.

During the summer, Hess takes the Nuggets to Red Rocks, the amphitheater in Morrison, which is nearly 1,000 feet higher than mile-high Denver. He has put Nuggets such as Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, Corey Brewer and Jordan Hamilton through rigorous workouts there.

Over the years, professional athletes have come to Colorado to train at altitude, so when they go back to, say, St. Louis, their bodies could have an advantage. Pro athletes who actually play in Colorado often go higher.

At Red Rocks, Hess' overall plan is an eight-week program involving stadium stairs - and climbing the rocky wall with specific upper- and lower-body exercises mixed in when the guys think it's time to rest.

But with summer travel schedules, not all players can be there for all eight sessions.

During the season, the altitude can be as tough on an NBA player as it is to score on Andre Iguodala. Opposing players  mention the altitude effect in the early stages of a game.

"It absolutely is a real thing," Hess said. "The higher the altitude, the less oxygen available for your blood to work your muscles. ... The dryness dries your throat so much, you just can't breathe, and I think that has a bigger effect short term.

"Even when we come back from a road trip, it takes some players a while to get used to the altitude. I encourage the guys to come in on the day off (after the trip) to do something cardiovascular."

To take advantage of the altitude, the Nuggets attempt to play as fast as they can, which carries over on the road.

The Nuggets led the NBA in scoring last season, averaging 104.1 points per game. They ranked second in average points in the first quarter at home (27.6), compared with 11th in first- quarter average points on the road (24.5). In other words, the Nuggets try to bury opponents at the Pepsi Center before opponents get accustomed to the altitude later in the game.