LOS ANGELES — Danny Ainge has watched with measured angst as his Celtics have dropped three straight. He has seen the comebacks that used to yield stirring wins now fall short.

And as he scans the active roster, he’s zeroed in on a critical need.

“I think what we could really use is like a 6(-foot)-8 wing player that can shoot,” said the Celts’ president of basketball operations. “A guy who can play off the ball and create offense on the ball, and also play multiple positions defensively.”

Told that it sounded as if he was shining the Bat Signal for Gordon Hayward into the Boston sky, Ainge laughed hard.

“Yeah, where is he?” he said.

“I mean, quite honestly, as I’ve looked at our roster, I’ve been saying that all year long, but, yeah, we could use one more creator,” Ainge said. “And the fact that Gordon can create offense and handle the ball and take the burden off of Kyrie (Irving) – and also play off the ball and space the floor – I’ve thought that many times as I’ve looked at our team and what do we need and what are we lacking? But that definitely is No. 1.”

And, while the team has said he’ll miss the rest of the year, it remains at least a possibility that Hayward could return to the Celtics this season from his fractured left ankle. That notion percolated through the fan base when Hayward’s wife posted Instagram video of him hitting 3-pointers.

Asked if Hayward is ahead of schedule, Ainge said, “Honestly I think it’s too early to even tell that.

“He’s just starting to walk without the brace and do some shooting without moving. It’s just too early to tell. I think over the next month or two – month and a half anyway – we’ll have a much better idea of how he responds. But, again, in my mind he’s not going to play this year. And until something changes, we’re not planning on that happening. We’re not applying any pressure to that.

“But I don’t think he’s ahead or behind as far as I know. He’s just right on schedule. He took the brace off after the three-month mark, and that was sort of what was planned from the beginning and that’s where we are right now.”

If Hayward doesn’t play again this season, it clearly won’t be from lack of trying on his part. He has, by all accounts, attacked his rehab.

“He’s been great,” said Ainge. “He’s been in the facility early in the morning many days – 7 o’clock in the morning – and going to five hours. A lot of that is not just rehab, it’s strength training in his upper body, it’s conditioning on the bike, it’s working in the pool. But, yeah, his work ethic and how he’s gone about it all has been amazing. Very impressive.”

On the other hand, there is Hayward’s team. The Celtics came out west seeking warmer weather and their groove. They haven’t won in the U.S. since Jan. 6, when Jayson Tatum hit a clutch 3-pointer to get them past the Nets. After that they beat the 76ers in London, then returned home to lose to New Orleans, Philadelphia and Orlando.

“I just think we’ve been in a little bit of a funk,” said Ainge. “I don’t know if there’s one thing you could point to. I mean, we’ve had a tough time making some shots. We haven’t played our defense. We’ve had too many turnovers. And those aren’t happening every game; it’s just that one or two of those things seems to be happening every game.

“I’m not really all that worried about it. I feel like every team goes through these things. We’re certainly a young team, and we’re probably more likely to go through them than other teams. But I’m anxious to see how our team responds to this midseason funk that we’re in.”

The first opportunity was Tuesday against the Lakers, and the Celtics will be in the same arena on a different floor to play the Clippers on Wednesday before finishing the trip at Golden State on Saturday and Denver on Monday.

They still own the best record in the Eastern Conference, but they’re not being seen in the same light as when they won 22 of their first 26. In a number of those games, the Celtics escaped the clutches of near certain defeat, and the showy nature of their record may have served to mask the fact that this is still a young team.

“I don’t know if it masked it,” said Ainge. “I think our guys were playing really hard and they were riding some momentum there in stretches because the team was winning and there’s a belief.

“And now when you go through some tough times, you know, do you still have that same belief in each other? Do you still make that same commitment, realizing that you’ve still got a few months before the playoffs start? Those are always the challenges. Are people pacing themselves? We’re getting off to some real slow starts.

“I just think that psychologically there’s a lot that goes into it, and then there’s just guys that are trying and aren’t able to make shots for whatever reason. And then there’s matchup things that happen in games. And, hey, there’s teams that are desperate. There’s a lot of team like Orlando, and they played really well (Sunday). You’ve got to give them a lot of credit.”

The Celtics were within striking distance against the Magic on Sunday, but getting outscored 32-12 in the third quarter was an embarrassment they couldn’t overcome.

“Now those fourth-quarter wide-open 3’s aren’t going in, and you just give yourself no room for error,” said Ainge. “But I still believe in this group of kids and this team, I like our leadership on the team.

“It’s not fun to watch the last few games, but I’ve been in the league a long time, and it’s rare that you don’t have these spells.”