A lot has happened to the Lakers since General Manager Mitch Kupchak last spoke to reporters.

Dwight Howard left for Houston despite the Lakers' very public campaign to keep him. Metta World Peace was waived via the amnesty provision and quickly joined New York. Chris Kaman Nick Young Jordan Farmar and Wesley Johnson were all signed as free agents.

It leaves the Lakers … where exactly?

But first the obvious question for Kupchak who spoke Monday to The Times in his first interview in more than a month:

How disappointed was he to lose Howard in free agency to the "little town" of Houston as Shaquille O'Neal derisively called it?

"It wasn't a surprise. I had a feeling that Houston was a frontrunner and whenever a player is an unrestricted free agent anything can happen" Kupchak said. "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."

With Kobe Bryant coming back at an unknown date from a torn Achilles' tendon is it time to punt away next season and play for a high draft pick in 2014?

"You know that's not our plan. Our plan was to bring back Dwight Howard and that would have sky-rocketed our payroll" Kupchak said. "That's never a plan here with our fan base to throw in the towel before the season begins. We always try to win and that's what we're going to do this year.

"We have challenges. There's no doubt. We don't know when Kobe's coming back and we don't know what level he's going to come back at although we're optimistic. Everything's good with Steve [Nash]. Pau [Gasol] should be fine. We've added some athleticism. We're hopefully putting ourselves in position where we can compete in every game."

It's still hard to gauge Bryant's return date after having surgery in mid-April to repair his Achilles. The original timetable released by the team called for six to nine months of recovery time.

"Obviously we're all hopeful and we all know Kobe. When you guess on Kobe he always tries to prove you wrong" Kupchak said. "The reality is he's doing what he should be doing. He's making progress probably weekly.