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Bulls suddenly getting rock-star treatment

Bulls guard Derrick Rose drives lane fourth quarter for layup during an NBA game January 25 2011 pitting Chicago Bulls

Bulls guard Derrick Rose drives the lane in the fourth quarter for a layup during an NBA game on January 25, 2011 pitting the Chicago Bulls against the Milwaukee Bucks. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 15, 2011 10:08AM

Derrick, Luol, Joakim, Carlos.

It doesn’t have quite the same ring as John, Paul, Ringo, George.

‘‘I know the Beatles,’’ Luol Deng said. ‘‘I don’t think we’re close to where the Beatles were.’’

The way things are going, though, the Bulls are starting to feel rock-star-like love.

‘‘It’s definitely been swelling,’’ Deng said. ‘‘In the beginning of the year, we had some known names, but you didn’t really know how it was going to work. Now the buzz is there. Everyone’s kind of expecting us to win, even big games. Before, going into big games, people were not giving us the credit.’’

They are now. Everywhere they go, it seems.

Maybe it’s because there are so many transplanted Chicagoans around the country. Part of it might be because so many NBA stars, such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, have become love-’em-or-hate-’em personalities.

Meanwhile, rising young Bulls stars such as Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah are endearing themselves with their modesty and enthusiasm as well as their play.

And of course, it’s major that they are neck-and-neck with the Boston Celtics for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

It all adds up to a little extra excitement in the air wherever the Bulls play.

‘‘There’s definitely a buzz around,’’ Deng said. ‘‘People are excited to see us play. It says a lot about the year we’re having.’’

The players enjoy it. They appreciate it. They also are mature enough to follow coach Tom Thibodeau’s urgings to keep their attention fixed on the next practice, the next game, the things that go into being successful.

‘‘Keeping things in perspective, we haven’t done anything yet,’’ Noah said. ‘‘We’re just taking it game by game, not putting any added pressure on ourselves.

‘‘You guys are writing nice things about us right now because we’re winning basketball games. All that stuff doesn’t help you win basketball games at the end of the day. It’s nice. But we have to keep working and just get better.’’

Everyone poring over NCAA tournament brackets this morning is a reminder that the Bulls have dealt with the roller coaster of March Madness emotions and expectations.

At Memphis, Rose lost a heartbreaker of a national championship game to Kansas. At Florida, Noah dealt with the pressure cooker of returning to school to win a second straight national championship. After winning a national championship at Duke, Carlos Boozer knew the disappointment of losing the next year in the Sweet 16 on a top-seeded team. Keith Bogans played under the microscope at Kentucky.

With the exception of backup center Omer Asik, all of the Bulls know the ups and downs of March Madness. And even in Istanbul, the pressure was on for the Turkish national team.

After talking about how much he admired Michael Jordan and the Bulls growing up, Rose summed it up well when asked how much he was anticipating the 1990-91 championship reunion Saturday.

‘‘I’m just trying to focus on Utah,’’ he said. ‘‘I know it’s going to be a big celebration. But what’s the celebration if we lose?’’

If they’re going to adhere to Thibodeau’s blueprint for success, which includes peaking at the right time as well as defense and attention to the next task, the Bulls know they need to keep all the love they’re getting in perspective.

‘‘Coach keeps talking about it,’’ Deng said. ‘‘You’re going to get a lot of people saying the right things on the outside. You can’t get caught up in it. We’ve done a good job of avoiding distractions all year. As much as fans are going to have a great time, we still have a job to do.’’

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