I’m willing to bet that Allan Houston will return to the Knicks starting lineup sometime before Tariq Abdul-Wahad plays another game for the Mavericks. The NY Post’s Michael Morrisey catches up with the former.

It only seems that the more Allan Houston practices, the further away his return date becomes.

Yesterday, Houston participated in a full-court scrimmage for the first time this season before indicating he probably wouldn’t be ready to return Saturday in Charlotte.

The Knick shooting guard ” rehabbing a sore left knee ” actually mentioned it could be as much as two weeks before he rejoins his teammates, but he’s done speculating or worrying about return dates for now.

“I’m pretty happy,” a sweat-soaked Houston said. “I don’t want to get too ahead of myself and say, ‘Well, all right, now I’m ready to play.’

“I have to make sure I listen to the trainers. Because I haven’t had a training camp, this is the closest thing to a training camp that I’m having.”

Head coach Lenny Wilkens said it was “very optimistic” to think Houston could be ready by Saturday. Wilkens was pleased by Houston’s participation in the full-contact scrimmage, which replicated approximately 10 minutes of game action. But the coach wants to see a few more practices, and the next one won’t be until Thursday at the earliest.

“He didn’t shy away from contact ” he ran the floor pretty good,” Wilkens said. “It’s a start. It’s a good first step.

“I need to see him do it a few times so that I know he’s comfortable and he knows he’s comfortable and the bumping is not taking a toll.”

Ending the first quarter on a 7-0 run and shooting 53% from the field, New York are up 31-21 so far in Atlanta, Nazr Mohammed dropping 10 points on his former club in the early going.