DEERFIELD, Ill. - The Chicago Bulls were sure this was their season to challenge for the Eastern Conference championship. If they do, it will be with a new coach.

The Bulls fired Scott Skiles yesterday, hoping to shake up a team with one of the worst records in the Eastern Conference.

"I felt like something was going to happen," forward Luol Deng said. "I didn't know whether it was players or coaches. But you could definitely feel there was something. It just didn't seem like we were on the same page."

The underachieving Bulls are 9-16, have lost three of their last four games, and were booed throughout by the home crowd in Saturday night's 116-98 loss to the Houston Rockets. Their next game takes place tomorrow at San Antonio.

With three straight playoff appearances after a long postseason drought, the Bulls had soaring expectations. Then they dropped 10 of their first 12 games, and they have been unable to capture the intensity that catapulted them into the second round of the playoffs last season.

They have lacked a consistent inside scoring threat the last few years, and now their perimeter players are off-target. Chicago is shooting a league-worst 41.3 percent, which partially explains why it hasn't been able to sustain a winning streak.