PHOENIX, JAN. 15 -- Everyone has a homecoming. This is Mark Alarie's. He still has a home in Scottsdale. He starred down the road at Brophy Prep.

"How many tickets do I need?" he repeated before tonight's game with the Suns. "You know that figure eight sign turned sideways? That's how many I need."

To non-mathematicians, that's infinity.

But Alarie's season thus far has been anything but. He's played just 39 minutes the last seven games, and has racked up the Did Not Play-Coach's Decisions. His numbers are way down from last season's, when it appeared as if the fifth-year pro was going to break in as a role player.

"Tom {Hammonds} and I have had our struggles," Alarie said. "Bernard {King} and Harvey {Grant} have played great. There's just not a whole lot of minutes for a forward, because the starters have been playing so well. I have a feeling that there's going to be some minutes eventually because these guys are playing so much. It's going to take a toll on them eventually."

Last season Alarie and King were the only Bullets to appear in all 82 games. Alarie became a decent defender in the low post when John Williams got hurt and set career highs in scoring (10.5), rebounding (4.6) and minutes (23.1). And when other teams talked about Bullets they'd like to have, Alarie and Grant usually topped the list.

But Alarie's shooting, the cornerstone of his game, was off the first couple of weeks of the season. He was just 25 of 72 (.347) from the floor the first 10 games. The DNPs soon followed. His numbers for the season are 5.9 points and 2.8 rebounds. Tonight he played 12 minutes, with six points and five rebounds.

"I've been through it before," he said. "When I first got traded here {in 1987} I hardly played at all. I did get a chance later in the season. You've just got to make sure that you're ready. It's real easy to get down on yourself. You don't appear ready and mentally, you're out of it."

The reality is that the Bullets are going to pump King and Grant for all that they can get. Alarie knows it. It doesn't mean he's accepting it.

"You can't resign yourself to not playing much," he said. "It's kind of a defeatist attitude if you accept being the number four forward. {But} I struggled at the beginning of the year. I certainly didn't earn it." Williams Gets Work In

As advertised, Williams stayed behind after the morning shootaround to work out with Bullets Coach Wes Unseld and strength coach Dennis Householder. The Bullets said before the trip that they wanted to get him some basketball-oriented work, but so far he's mostly done running in two days.

Williams and Unseld went about 45 minutes following the shootaround today, and he went for a weightlifting session afterward with Householder. During the shootaround, Williams worked by himself at the other end of the court as the team went through Phoenix plays.

"I'm sure to some degree it's {lonely}," Unseld said. "But it's got to be understandable. It's one of those things he has to do to get back. We'll try not to make it too boring. We'll try to mix it up a little." . . .

The Suns have been riding high since acquiring Xavier McDaniel from Seattle. It's not that McDaniel wasn't available -- he would have gone to Cleveland with Nate McMillan in the offseason if John "Hot Rod" Williams hadn't nixed the deal -- but it was surprising to most that Phoenix could get such a player within its division.

"We made them an offer I felt they couldn't refuse," Phoenix Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons said. "Nobody else was willing to make that kind of offer."