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Anderson Varejao ready to return to form

With LeBron James back, Anderson Varejao is hoping to return to the player he was four years ago. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

MADRID -– Anderson Varejao was once among LeBron James' favorite running mates during his first stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The four years apart have not been among the most enjoyable of the Brazilian center’s career. But he has declared himself ready to play his part in delivering an NBA title with Ohio’s homegrown superstar back in the fold.

Just contending will be a nice change for the lone survivor from the Cavaliers' run to the NBA Finals in 2007 and one of the few holdovers on a roster that has been overhauled this offseason thanks to the additions of James and Kevin Love.

“I’m happy for the city of Cleveland,” Varejao said. "I’m happy for myself that we have LeBron back. And I believe we have a pretty good team and we should all be excited for next season."

Varejao, now 31, got off to a strong start after James departed, averaging a near-double-double to start the 2010-11 season, but injuries would limit him to just 146 games over the past four seasons, and the shuffle at head coach caused he and the Cavs to lurch from one lottery to the next.

But the veteran big man who has spent all 10 of his NBA seasons in Cleveland is already showing signs of his former self at the the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Playing for his home country of Brazil, the center has scrapped for points and chipped in on defense like the highly effective role player of old. Through six games in Spain so far, Varejao is averaging 8.3 points and 7.8 rebounds in 23 minutes per night

“I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “I’ve had some tough years in Cleveland with injuries and going through a rebuilding process. It’s never fun. But I’m happy right now. I’m healthy and that’s who I want to be.

“The only thing that players worry about is getting injuries. It was tough for me but now I’m fine I’m 100 percent and looking forward to staying healthy forever.”

Including Wednesday, he hopes, when Brazil faces Serbia for a place in the semifinals against either Spain or France.

Having overcome old rival Argentina in the previous round, the 2016 Olympic hosts know all too well what the Serbs are capable of after blowing an 18-point lead against them in group play before securing an 81-73 win.

“We know how tough it will be,” Varejao said. “They have a lot of size. But we’ve prepared ourselves for this. We came here to fight for the championship. That’s what we want.

“We know we’ll have to play well to beat Serbia but if we do a good job, we have a chance.”