Marcus Camby has never been an ironman, never playing more than 79 games in a season in his first 16 years in the league — a total he won't pass this year, either, as he already sat out the first three games.

But he has managed to hang on for 17 seasons and he is anxious to get this one started. After sitting out all six preseason games and watching from the bench as the Knicks have gotten off to a 3-0 start while he rehabilitated a strained left calf, Camby is set to make his debut tonight when the Knicks host the Dallas Mavericks.

"I was ready to play in the Miami game," Camby said of last Friday's season opener. "But I don't make those decisions. I just have to be ready when my name is called."

Knicks coach Mike Woodson said that call will come tonight after Camby participated in two days of scrimmaging.

It was those workouts that kept Camby sidelined until now as Woodson insisted he would not put him a game without having been tested in contact drills and scrimmaging.

Exactly what role awaits him is a question mark. Camby was brought in to be an insurance policy behind Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire and likely would have moved into a starting role with Stoudemire sidelined for six to eight weeks following left knee surgery.

But the Knicks have coasted through the first three games, winning each one by at least 14 points, with Carmelo Anthony starting at power forward and Jason Kidd stepping into the starting lineup at shooting guard.