Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol will be part of the Lakers' plans next season with Dwight Howard leaving Los Angeles for the Houston Rockets. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / April 28, 2013)

Happy 33rd birthday, Pau Gasol.

That was about all the Lakers could muster Saturday after Dwight Howard spat on the cake a day earlier, leaving for the Houston Rockets after a five-day, five-team odyssey.

There's really only one question: What's next?

PHOTO GALLERY: Dwight Howard and the Lakers

Pau Gasol will stay and the Lakers are leaning toward keeping Metta World Peace instead of waiving him under the one-time amnesty provision, according to a person familiar with the situation.

So next season really comes down to seeing what Kobe Bryant (torn Achilles' tendon) and Steve Nash (39 years old) look like.

The Lakers are too far over the salary cap to sign anybody else to lucrative deals and are left with one free-agent spending tool — the uninspiring "mini" mid-level exception, worth $3.1 million next season.

It's certainly not enough to get Nikola Pekovic, Monta Ellis or Brandon Jennings. It might be enough to get Carlos Delfino, Gary Neal or Nate Robinson.

"If Dwight should leave, then we have a Plan B. It's not as good as Plan A," General Manager Mitch Kupchak said on draft night a little more than a week ago.

Strange, strange ending to what turned out to be a one-year rental, the Howard fallout even snaring mild-mannered Lakers reserve Jodie Meeks on Saturday.

Numerous websites claimed Meeks posted on Instagram a Photoshopped Howard as a female basketball player, complete with pigtails, makeup and an Orlando Miracle WNBA jersey.

One problem, though, other than the fact the Miracle moved to Connecticut 10 years ago.

"Woww! I don't even have an instagram" account, Meeks wrote on his Twitter feed Saturday morning. "Whoever that is needs to stop it!!"

He then added "people these days" and "this is a crazy world."

Meeks was Howard's best friend on the Lakers.

And from a small corner in the Clippers' ever-brightening world came a tweet from Clipper Darrell, their unofficial team mascot who wears half-red, half-blue suits to games: "When could u ever say Lakers & Rebuilding and then LAClippers & Championship all in the same sentence."

He added the hashtag "#CULTURECHANGE."

Shaquille O'Neal, a longtime critic of Howard, couldn't resist tossing in his two pennies, telling reporters that the L.A. spotlight was too strong for Howard.

"It was expected," he said. "We've all been in L.A., and not a whole lot of people can handle being under the bright lights. Everybody wants to do it, but when you get there, there are certain pressures. I think it was a safe move for him to go to a little town like Houston. That's right, little town. I said it."

The big-town Lakers, though, have larger championship odds than the Rockets, free-falling from 10-1 to 25-1 after Howard's decision, according to MGM Resorts International. It could be worse, though — the Boston Celtics are 50-1.