NEW YORK — This was Josh Harris as you've never seen him. This was a man who had finally discovered a way out of the basement, who was stepping into the sunlight after years of darkness.
And basking in the warmth.
"I want to be done with this building, man," the Sixers' principal owner said after Tuesday night's NBA draft lottery in the Hilton Midtown. "I'm ready to be, like, playing [in the playoffs]."
Harris usually speaks softly, and often relies on business jargon in his public utterances. ("ROI" — i.e., "return on investment" — is a biggie with him.)
But not on this occasion. Not after his team's fifth straight trip to the lottery netted the third overall pick, the fourth straight year the Sixers have landed at No. 3 or higher.
He was uncharacteristically animated, all but bursting at the seams.
"I'm really ready to be done with [the lottery]," he said. "It's a great event, but time to move on, other than if it's someone else's pick. I want to be where Wyc (Grousbeck, the Boston owner) was today. I want my team playing and I'm up here, like, doing this."
The Celtics, poised to face Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals, earned the top overall pick courtesy of a 2013 trade with Brooklyn.
The Sixers, who will also choose after the Lakers, benefited from a similar bit of largesse — a 2015 deal with Sacramento that allowed them to swap first-rounders with the Kings (see story). That that deal was engineered by former general manager Sam Hinkie was not lost on Harris.
"Thank you, Sam Hinkie!" he said, again all but shouting for the rooftops. "You set us up well. I'm going to text him tonight, and give him a big kiss over text."
President of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo was no less upbeat.
"I think we're in a pretty good position, as there is some turnover on the horizon (on the part of the conference's top teams), to ultimately be a power in the East," he said.
He added that there is no telling how long that might take, and any number of routes they can take to get there. They can follow what he called a "measured, organic growth path" and continue to build through the draft, or hasten things along via free agency and trades.
"We're going to look at both," he said.
But certainly Tuesday represented another step in the right direction. The Sixers, with the league's fourth-worst record, nudged up another spot (see story). And now they have a promise of unprotected first-rounders from the Lakers next year and the Kings in 2019.
This year's pick should yield a backcourt partner for Ben Simmons, already anointed the point guard by coach Brett Brown despite his 6-10 frame and the fact that, you know, he has yet to play an NBA game.
Joel Embiid, the team's representative on the lottery set, is supposed to be back on the court soon, after undergoing surgery to repair the torn meniscus that limited him to 31 games this past season. Dario Saric is also back, and others (Robert Covington, T.J. McConnell, et al.) have shown promise.
Remember how the team adopted a slogan of "This Starts Now" heading into the 2015-16 season? It appears that it really starts now.
"With the talent that's available in the third spot in this draft, we're going to have a choice that we're going to arguably take what I would say is a combination of both the best player and the best fit," Colangelo said.
Could be Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox or Malik Monk — the first a blur, the second a knock-down shooter. Could be UCLA's Lonzo Ball, though he seems likely to remain in Los Angeles. Could be NC State's Dennis Smith. (One guy it probably won't be is Washington point guard Markelle Fultz. He's the consensus No. 1.)
The point is, it's gonna be hard to screw this up. (Stop that snickering.)
"We would have been happy with anything we came out with tonight, because we knew we had a top pick, and as Josh said earlier, we've paid our dues to get here, to this point," Colangelo said. "We don't want to be here again, on our merits. We want to be here on the merits of others."
It was here that Harris cut in.
"Bryan will be here with the team when the playoffs open," he said, "and I'll be here, hopefully, because one of the other teams doesn't do well. That's our goal."
"Because we're in the second round or maybe the conference finals," Colangelo said. "I'd like that a lot more."
Hope springs eternal, now that Harris and Co. have stepped out into the sunlight.