For at least Sunday night, veteran experience or not, Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden were just like Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas or Thabo Sefolosha.
One video session on Saturday, one walk-through Sunday morning and a quick toss into the fire of competition for the new Bulls acquired in Thursday's franchise-changing trade.
That trade handed the keys to the car to youngsters, mistakes and all, as well as those like Hughes and Gooden, who are learning the Bulls' system on the fly.
The crash course stayed on path for a half before veering off the road in a 110-97 loss to the Rockets, who have won 12 straight.
Bobby Jackson, making his Rockets debut after a deadline-day deal with New Orleans, hit several back-breaking fourth-quarter shots. He scored 11 of his 14 points in the final frame.
Tracy McGrady also heated up late after mostly deferring early, tallying nine of his game-high 24 points in the fourth. The Bulls again failed to defend the three-point line, a problem area all season, allowing the Rockets to shoot 54.2 percent from that range.
"It always comes off allowing too much penetration," interim coach Jim Boylan said. "It's an area we have to get better at."
Gooden tallied 12 points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes, even matching up against Yao Ming to start the fourth as Boylan opted for a small lineup. Gooden displayed impressive shooting until airballing two deep attempts out of his range in the fourth.
Hughes scored 13 points in 22 minutes and praised the Bulls' style afterward.
"I like this team and its energy," Hughes said. "I like how real the coaches talk to us.
"I played OK. I was trying to find my way. We didn't run a lot of sets. We just tried to get movement. I think I'll be fine. I like the style."
While citing the versatility Hughes and Gooden afford, Boylan also insisted he'd bring them along slowly. And the effects on the playing rotation will be intriguing to monitor.
The odd man out in the guard rotation, at least against Houston, was Chris Duhon, who didn't play by coach's decision for the first time this season.
"By the time the second quarter started, I figured it wasn't going to be my night," Duhon said.
Minutes for Luol Deng and Ben Gordon also were affected. Deng came off the bench for the third straight game since returning from injury and scored 10 points in 24 minutes.
Gordon scored five points in 26 minutes and needed a late three-pointer to do that, shooting 2-for-11 overall.
"We got new guys, so there wasn't much chemistry because they were trying to get acclimated," Gordon said. "It was different. The rotation will be an adjustment. It's going to affect everybody on the team. We have to find a way to have chemistry."
As for the other new Bulls, Cedric Simmons played the final 2:11 of mop-up time and made his only field-goal attempt for two points, and Shannon Brown was inactive.
Thomas, in his second straight strong performance, topped the Bulls with 18 points.
"You'd always like to get a win," Hughes said. "But we'll be fine."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun