Mitch Kupchak says he wasn't surprised that Dwight Howard left the Lakers for the Houston Rockets but LA's general manager still felt a letdown when the decision became final.

"I had a feeling that Houston was a frontrunner and whenever a player is an unrestricted free agent anything can happen" Kupchak said Monday in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "Clearly we wanted to keep him here in Los Angeles and I felt we did everything we could do within reason to show we did want to keep him here.

"Until the end I kept up hope. I think we were as persistent as we could be within reason. I wasn't shocked but I was disappointed."

Howard's departure was among the many story lines Kupchak addressed Monday.

On a possible return date for guard Kobe Bryant who's recovering from surgery to repair a torn Achilles': "It's really premature to try to predict other than try to be optimistic that he'll be ready for opening night or the 15th of November or the 1st of December or the 15th of December."

On the health status of point guard Steve Nash and power forward Pau Gasol: "I expect both those guys to participate in training camp."

On embattled coach Mike D'Antoni: "I think he's done a great job of putting a staff together that's enthusiastic got a lot of energy and experience." The Lakers announced the hirings of assistants Kurt Rambis and Johnny Davis on Monday.