WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Boston Celtics All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving admits that, even as the Celtics sit atop the Eastern Conference, he finds himself daydreaming about a time when a healthy Gordon Hayward is back on the court for Boston.
Irving said he's comfortable with Boston's current roster should Thursday's trade deadline pass without activity. But he can't help but wonder what the Celtics' potential would be if Hayward were also available.
Hayward fractured his ankle on opening night in Cleveland. While both the Celtics and Hayward have said they don't expect Hayward back this season, Hayward hasn't ruled out the possibility of a return even as he has stressed that his focus is simply on getting better every day.
"In a perfect world, man, Gordon would be playing right now," Irving said. "I think about the lineups all the time. I know I play the what-ifs and it's not necessarily positive. But I play the what-ifs because I know how talented Gordon is and what he would bring to the table, and how much pressure he would relieve of me and also other guys on this team.
"So I think that it's kind of like having an ace in the back pocket that you can't necessarily use right now with Gordon being out. But we want him to get as healthy as possible. And that's where we stand with that. Where I stand with that, too."
Despite losing Hayward, the Celtics stand at 39-16 and own a one-game lead over the Toronto Raptors atop the East. Boston is expected to formally sign free-agent big man Greg Monroe once the trade deadline passes and, while Irving couldn't comment yet on the impending addition, he said he was content if this is Boston's roster moving forward.
Still he can't help but think about what the team might look like if Hayward were healthy.
"I'd be even more comfortable if this was our complete healthy roster," said Irving. The Celtics are also currently without Marcus Smart, who is out through the All-Star break with a lacerated hand. "I think that would be probably a lot better feeling if we had our full complete roster."
And what might a full lineup with Hayward look like?
"I just think about just big lineups, man," Irving said. "It's probably jumping the gun in terms of big lineups with me at the point guard, but me, [Hayward], [Jayson Tatum], [Jaylen Brown] and Al [Horford]. Or it could be me, Terry [Rozier], Gordon, JT, [Marcus Morris]. You just have so many options to play with and you could fill in as many other players as you want.
"It's just when you have someone that's able to come off the ball, dribble, create opportunities for everybody else, and also defensive-minded, I mean, it makes the game that much easier."
The Celtics own a seven-game lead over Irving's former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Boston entered the week with a 99.4 percent chance at one of the East's top seeds, according to ESPN's Basketball Power Index.
Even without Hayward, the Celtics are hoping to compete for the East title. Monroe could add a scoring punch to Boston's bench and the Celtics have seen quality progress from their younger players this season.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens likes how his team has simply kept the focus on each game as it comes.