Cleveland Cavaliers return to top of NBA’s Eastern Conference

So much changes over the course of eight years. Just ask the Cleveland Cavaliers, who last played for an NBA title back when they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs following the 2006-07 season.

Three years later the Cavs decided it was time to move on from head coach Mike Brown, while all-star LeBron James decided to move on from Cleveland following semifinal setbacks to the Boston Celtics (2008, 2010) and an Eastern Conference final loss to the Orlando Magic in 2009.

And now, mercifully, Cleveland gets another shot at breaking a pro sports title drought that dates back to 1964 when the Browns last finished on top.

This time the Cavs’ hopes won’t hinge on the likes of overachievers such as Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, Daniel Gibson and, unfortunately, Anderson Varejao, who is one of two remaining players still on roster from 2007 but has been sidelined due to injury.

Brown was in just his second season as an NBA head coach when Cleveland last played for a title. He attempted a return to the sideline with the Cavs last season but went 33-49 before being relieved of his duties for the second time.

Then James shocked the world when he made his way back home over the summer to team up with first-year NBA coach David Blatt, seemingly continuing a trend of sorts after reaching the finals the last four years with the Miami Heat and rookie head coach Erik Spoelstra.

Now James has willed a different version of the Cleveland Cavs into the finals that’s had no shortage of injuries and suspensions throughout the postseason.

This time around it’s the likes of Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson, Timothy Mozgov and emerging fan-favorite Matthew Dellavedova that are tasked with persevering for an entire sports region against the best from the West.

And somehow it feels a lot like 2007 all over again.

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