Metta World Peace is a leader … of the second unit

Mike Brown is giving Metta World Peace a chance … to come off the bench.

The Lakers coach said the small forward who has started every game he has played since coming to Los Angeles two years ago will bolster the second unit, giving World Peace more scoring opportunities and a bigger leadership role.

As World Peace spoke with reporters about the switch Thursday at the Lakers’ training facility, Brown walked over and draped an arm around the veteran’s shoulders.

“If that second unit isn’t rolling, whose fault is it?” Brown asked.


Said World Peace: “My fault.”

Said Brown: “It’s on you.”

World Peace appeared to embrace the change, saying it would force teams to double-team him or face the consequences.

“If you don’t double-team,” World Peace said, “I’m giving you buckets. It’s really that simple.”

World Peace’s starting spot will be taken by Matt Barnes, Luke Walton or Devin Ebanks, Brown said. The other starters will be Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and most likely veteran Derek Fisher, who Brown said “fits better” with the first-teamers than fellow point guard Steve Blake.

Ebanks is a surprise starting candidate, considering the second-year forward rarely played and averaged only 3.1 points as a rookie. But Brown said he liked Ebanks’ ability to run the floor in transition, rebound and shoot from the perimeter.

World Peace said his statistics dipped last season, when he averaged a career-low 8.5 points, in part because he was surrounded by so many capable scorers. That shouldn’t be a problem playing as part of a lineup that features significantly less firepower with Blake, Josh McRoberts and Jason Kapono.

“With my second unit,” Brown said, “Ron will be one of my main guys and he will be one of my main post-up guys.”

The Lakers hope World Peace can provide the kind of spark that Lamar Odom gave them off the bench last season on the way to becoming the NBA’s sixth man of the year. Odom is now a Dallas Maverick after the Lakers traded him last week.

Though Brown disclosed the lineup shakeup for the first time Thursday, it wasn’t news to World Peace. The player and coach had discussed the move in their first meeting after Brown was hired last summer.

“The first time we spoke, [Brown] said, ‘I’m thinking about bringing you off the bench,’ ” World Peace said. “I said, ‘No problem at all.’ He knows what’s best. If Coach says you have to come off the bench, there’s nothing to think about.”

World Peace wasn’t always so amenable to coming off the bench. When he played behind Shane Battier in Houston three years ago, World Peace said he disagreed with the decision, particularly since he was trying to prove himself heading into free agency.

“I thought at that time I deserved to start,” World Peace said, “but Coach [Rick] Adelman thought it wasn’t best, so I just came off the bench.”

Fisher praised World Peace’s adaptability, saying it was another sign of his commitment to the team.

“Whatever the Lakers or the team wants him or needs him to do to in order for us to be the best,” Fisher said, “he’s willing to do it.”