ORLANDO — The Magic's retiring chairman and chief executive officer, Bob Vander Weide, said Wednesday his decision to step down had nothing to do with a phone call he made recently to Dwight Howard and efforts to keep the All-Star continue.
General manager Otis Smith said the Magic won't give in to every request Howard might make should he decide to test free agency in the summer. Howard can opt out of his deal a year early and become a free agent in July.
"At the end of the day, our objective is to win a title and protect this franchise," Smith said. "We're going to do whatever we have to do in order to do that. Our objective is to keep (Howard) in a uniform. However, if that's not the case, then we'll move another direction."
Vander Weide, who has worked with the Magic since coming aboard in 1992 as vice president of basketball operations, had been CEO and chairman since 2010. He said he had been moving toward stepping down for more than a year and the labor talks delayed the announcement.
Vander Weide, 53, will hand off the chairman duties to his brother-in-law Dan DeVos. Team president Alex Martins is taking over as CEO.
Vander Weide sought to clear up reports that he might have been intoxicated when he spoke to Howard in a late-night phone call this week. He said he had had two or three glasses of wine after a social event and wanted to return messages Howard had left for him. He denied being drunk.
"That phone conversation has not changed my relationship with Dwight," he said. "We like each other. … That phone call has not changed his feeling about this organization."
Deal voting begins: Players were to hear the finer points of the labor deal via conference call Wednesday evening, and ratification voting runs through 4 p.m. today. Owners also vote today. Training camps open Friday.
Lakers: Owner Jerry Buss, 77, was hospitalized because of blood clots in a leg caused by excessive travel, the team said. He was expected to be released in a day or two.