Hard times have fallen on the Little Evil Empire, otherwise known as Boston, which plays Mini-Me to New York’s Dr. Evil, with the Patriots losing and the Celtics’ Kevin Garnett still day to day with his abdominal pull . . .

As he has been for 16 days since he was hurt.

“Just to give you all a little bit into my life, I did my first couple of leg lifts laying on my back the other day and that was huge, huge, huge, huge, huge progress for me,” Garnett said last week.

Day to day, 16 days later

In other words:

He just started doing leg lifts?

In a belated realistic assessment, Coach Doc Rivers just told ESPN’s Lisa Salters that Garnett will probably return for their first game after the All-Star break.


That would be nine more days, or to Celtics fans, nine lifetimes.

Where’s my superstar?

Everyone who’s anyone is getting a superstar to play alongside, it seems to Cleveland’s LeBron James, who’s still waiting for a star of any kind.

“It does help when you have guys on the team that are perennial All-Stars or can go out there and produce every night and you know what you’re going to get,” said James, laughing.

Jason Kidd is still available, someone said.

“I know that,” said James, smiling.

Of course, being LeBron means being ready to shoulder the burden all by yourself.

“As long as I’m healthy, we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win,” he said, “no matter who is out on the court with me.”

Webber returns, or his ghost anyway

Then there’s Golden State, which brought back a star -- from the ‘90s.

Concerned Coach Don Nelson won’t return, ownership wouldn’t make a major move. So Nelson, known for his zany ideas and dying to leave everyone something to remember him by, got them to sign 34-year-old Chris Webber.

Announcing Webber would start, Nelson compared him with one of those YMCA players who are still passing wizards.

Webber made the comparison all too apt, trotting gingerly to the basket on a fastbreak the first time he got the ball, tossing an underhand layup and missing.

The Warriors lost to the Bulls, who didn’t have Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich or Ben Gordon.

With the team hyper-sensitive on the subject, the San Jose Mercury News’ Tim Kawakami summed it up in a blog post titled: “The Warriors’ Webber Experiment starts 0-1 and sllloooow, not that I want to be negative or anything.”

Little average, great big heart

Going out as he came in, Jason Collins played his last game for New Jersey amid reports he was about to be traded to Memphis because the Nets were short of big men.

“I think I’d have to be a robot not to” hear the reports, Collins said. “But I love playing for the New Jersey Nets. . . . You never want to let your teammates down.”

Despite his career 4.4 scoring average, the Nets went 53-35 the last two seasons when Collins started alongside Kidd, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and Nenad Krstic.

“I stand by that” percentage, said Jefferson. “We were really not too concerned with what other people thought about Jason Collins. He’s a winning-percentage guy.”

-- ark Heisler