CHARLOTTE — The depth that defined the impressive victory over Orlando and desperation that underscored the comeback victory over Houston weren't here Tuesday night.
Listlessness and sloppiness replaced those elements as the Bulls succumbed meekly to the Bobcats in a 96-80 final that didn't seem that close.
That means the Bulls are 2-4 since new acquisitions John Salmons, Brad Miller and Tim Thomas began playing—altering minutes, shot distribution and creating an on-the-fly chemistry with mixed results.
Coach Vinny Del Negro tackled that subject bluntly afterward.
"If guys were smart and professional, they'd understand the guys we brought in can help us win," Del Negro said. "That's what it's about—winning. It might alter somebody's minutes or somebody's shots. But that's not being a pro. It's about winning at this level and doing your job every night.
"I didn't like our demeanor. I didn't like our effort. No toughness, no urgency."
Indeed, the Bulls failed to rebound missed free throws, committed two backcourt violations as part of their 18 turnovers and, once they trailed substantially, entered their "head-down-I-can-dribble-between-my-legs-more-than-you" phase.
On one fourth-quarter possession, Ben Gordon missed back-to-back three-pointers and then committed one of his five turnovers.
"It's very, very frustrating to see this effort," Del Negro said. "That's the funny thing with this team. Sometimes, especially at home, we get after it. But on the road, our play is very inconsistent."
The Bulls have lost their last three road games by an average of 17 points.
Del Negro said he planned to start John Salmons for Luol Deng whether or not Deng, who was a late scratch with his right tibia injury, played. The Bulls, however, fell behind by 11 early and allowed 56 first-half points to the NBA's lowest-scoring team.
They briefly pulled within eight in the third before the wheels fell off.
"We came out sluggish from the jump," Gordon said. "Sometimes, there's a drop-off because new guys have to get assimilated to what we do. But with the [veterans] we have, there shouldn't be a drop-off."
Salmons, who had averaged 15 points in five strong games, managed only nine on 4-for-13 shooting with three turnovers. Tyrus Thomas' 14 points and 12 rebounds led the Bulls.
Raja Bell didn't know if he would play with a strained right shoulder, but he matched Raymond Felton's 18 points for team-high honors as the Bobcats placed all five starters in double figures and shot 48.7 percent.
"I guess we're looking at who we're playing or something like that," Derrick Rose said. "We had too many turnovers and too much miscommunication."
In other words, the Bulls are a team in transition—and not necessarily the fast-break kind.
"You have to come ready to do your job," Del Negro said. "We didn't do that. Our guys weren't ready from the jump ball. That's not good enough.
"When you bring new guys in, guys have to adjust. There are no excuses. We have to play hard and together."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times