Marcus Camby to play vs. Mavs

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The New York Knicks' deep front line just got a little deeper.

Veteran big man Marcus Camby will make his season debut Friday night against Dallas, coach Mike Woodson said Thursday.

Camby has been sidelined for the entire preseason and for the Knicks' first three regular-season games with a left calf strain.

"I can't give you the minutes (Camby will play against Dallas), but he'll play tomorrow, absolutely," Woodson said.

The 3-0 Knicks have given up a league-low 85.3 points per game and have allowed opponents to shoot 40 percent from the floor. If healthy, Camby should only help the Knicks' effort on defense.

"It helps us tremendously," Woodson said of Camby's return. "This is a young man that's played in enough systems, that's talented enough to play defense. He's capable of scoring some points -- he can do a little bit of everything. (He can) block shots, were going to need that."

Even at 38 and entering his 17th season in the NBA, Camby is thought of as a very strong interior defender. He averaged nine rebounds and 1.4 blocks in just 23 minutes per game last year in Houston.

In New York, Camby is expected to serve as a backup center for Tyson Chandler, a luxury Chandler didn't have last season.

"It's going to be huge," Chandler said of Camby's addition. "He can put in some positive minutes. Not just backup minutes, but some positive minutes out there. He can make a lot of things happen."

Camby was originally expected to miss just 7-10 days when he hurt his calf in the first week of training camp. He's participated in a handful of practices since.

So how much can he play on Friday?

"Whatever is needed of me," Camby said. "They haven't needed me the first three ballgames, so I just want to come in here and add to what we've already been building."

It will be interesting to see how Camby's return affects the Knicks' rotation.

Kurt Thomas has been playing consistent minutes off the bench, and Rasheed Wallace made cameo appearances in the first two games. One of the two veteran big men likely will have to sit to make room for Camby.

Woodson wasn't sure yet how he'd handle the glut on the frontcourt.

"I got to figure that out. That's what I'm paid to do," the coach said. "I've said all along: It's not how many minutes you get, it's what you do with the minutes that you get. I'm a big believer in that. I'm not here to satisfy anybody. I'm here to coach this team the best way I'm capable of coaching it along with the staff. When you get in the game, you've got to perform and play."

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.