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These Bulls have a chance to be special

With stars DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine playing together and the others sacrificing their games for the good of the team, the Bulls can be great.

DeMar DeRozan scored 29 points in the Bulls’ victory Monday against the Magic at the United Center. They have won eight games in a row.
DeMar DeRozan scored 29 points in the Bulls’ victory Monday against the Magic at the United Center. They have won eight games in a row.
Quinn Harris/Getty Images

The Bulls quietly have moved into first place in the Eastern Conference.

They have a 25-10 record, including eight victories in a row, their most since the 2011-12 season.

Some of those victories have featured come-from-behind rallies and ridiculous last-second shots.

Forward DeMar DeRozan is responsible for the two most recent crazy finishes, nailing back-to-back, off-balance three-pointers as time expired to beat the Pacers and Wizards on the road Friday and Saturday.

The striking element about the Bulls, at least to me, is that they have two star players — guard Zach Lavine and DeRozan — who willingly work together.

Their stats are nearly identical. Before the Bulls’ 102-98 home victory Monday against the Magic, DeRozan was averaging 26.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists and LaVine 26.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists. When one wins a game or fires up a shot in traffic, the other seems genuinely happy — or at least content — with it.

And why is this unusual?

Because stars so often resent a teammate invading their precious territory of dominance. Think how often you hear NBA players talk about whose team it is, which basically means: Who gets the last shot? Who’s the egomaniac? Who’s the guy who sucks the oxygen out of the locker room?

When it’s everyone in various forms of harmony, that’s a real team. That’s rare.

After DeRozan made his game-winning treys Friday and Saturday, LaVine was so excited, he said, “I thank God we got DeMar DeRozan on our team!”

For perspective, think about what Scottie Pippen dished in his new book, “Unguarded,” about teammate Michael Jordan.

“I was a much better teammate than Michael ever was,’’ which Pippen writes in the prologue, doesn’t have the same ring as, ‘‘First and foremost, it’s the friendship that all of us have, the respect we have for one another,” which is how DeRozan put it in mid-November.

There are other good players on these Bulls, center Nikola Vucevic and guard Lonzo Ball prime among them. Each often sees his game diminished for the betterment of the goal — winning — and they’re good with that.

With the parts in place, what it comes down to is attitude and, of course, coaching. For the Bulls, that comes from Billy Donovan. The veteran coach knows what he’s doing and has the team’s respect. Donovan’s job is to make the talent mesh and to keep the machine oiled and humming, not throwing sparks and smoke.

This might seem easy when you’ve got talent on your roster, but it’s not.

Yes, Phil Jackson had a nice ride to six NBA titles with his Jordan-led Bulls. But simple? Ha! Three of them came with Dennis Rodman at power forward. That’s easy only if you know how to coach a circus lion.

I think of the Bulls’ current cohesiveness and efficiency because I just watched the Peter Jackson-directed Disney+ series about the Beatles and the making of their 1970 album, ‘‘Let It Be.’’

I found it maddening.

There is so much wasted time, petty grieving, clowning around, lack of focus, passive-aggressive manipulation, even subliminal sabotage of others’ work that it’s shocking the group put out anything as complete and lasting as “Get Back,” “Across the Universe” and, of course, “Let It Be.”

There are reasons for this — and one in particular: The Beatles had no coach. There’s no one to direct them, assist them, fire them up, tell them to knock it off, force them to pull together. Their manager, Brian Epstein, recently had died of a drug overdose at age 32. Their producer, George Martin, was an older, quiet man not given to directing them.

I listened to Martin when he spoke in Chicago years ago, and he struck me then as a nice, subdued, dignified man but not as a leader of young, rebellious, genius musicians. Nor was that his job.

What, for Lord’s sake, is Yoko Ono doing on set, attached to John Lennon like a leech, screeching at times into the mic?

Why can’t Paul McCartney see that his eagerness is overwhelming George Harrison?

Why doesn’t George speak up?

Couldn’t Ringo Starr tell John to quit the snark?

The band soon would break up, and all four members would go on to have No. 1 hits as solo artists. The talent was always there.

It’s just that the Beatles were greater than the parts. It’s like All-Stars, like basketball teams: Greatness still needs to be coached, to be helped.

The Bulls might have that shot at greatness right now. Let’s hope they don’t blow it.