Howard was caught using the spray, which gives players a better grip on the ball, during the first quarter, when Atlanta’s Paul Millsap alerted the referees to a foreign substance on the ball while shooting free throws.
Per the AJC:
Official Monty McCutchen grabbed the ball and went to each bench to issue a warning, saying ‘Stickum is illegal in the NBA.’
After first going to the Hawks bench he made his way toward the Rockets bench. Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff slid in front of the can, still at the scorer’s table. McCutchen noted he knew what Bickerstaff was hiding.
Howard was issued a warning, but stayed in the game. The NBA is reviewing the incident.
"I’ve never felt the ball like that ever," Millsap told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "It was sticky. It was like super glue or something was on there. I couldn’t get it off my hands. It was the weirdest thing ever."
Referees gave warnings to each bench and then approached the scorer’s table, where they were directed to a can covered with white tape. The can was taken off the table and one of the officials told the scorer to alert him if it was seen again.
"I’ve been using it for the last five years," Howard told the Houston Chronicle. "It hasn’t been a problem. I don’t know why people are making a big deal out of it. I do it every game. It’s not a big deal. I ain’t even tripping."