Applying foreign substances to the ball has long been an issue in Major League Baseball where pitchers try to gain an advantage by increasing friction, or grip, in their hands. In Saturday night's game between the Houston Rockets and Atlanta Hawks, the practice migrated to NBA basketball.
The Rockets were caught for Dwight Howard using a Stickum spray on his hands in the first quarter of Saturday's game against the Hawks.
As Howard was about to check back into the game, he sprayed his hands at the scorer's table with a can covered in white tape - apparently to hide its contents. He entered the game as Paul Millsap was at the free-throw line and grabbed the ball after a made first attempt. When Millsap got the ball back it clearly had a foreign substance on it.
"I've never felt the ball like that ever," Millsap said after the game. "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."
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.
Vivlamore also relates that the can was then taken from courtside, no penalty was enforced, and that the matter is under review at league offices. The team did not produce the can when officials asked for it after the fact.
In a spectacular demonstration why those under scrutiny should not represent themselves, Houston Chronicle beat writer Jonathan Feigen relates this quote from Howard:
Howard on his Stickum: "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 tripping."— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) March 20, 2016
Counting playoff outings, Howard just admitted to breaking league rules 951 times.
How will the league respond? Stay tuned...