Dwight Howard, caught using Stickum or a similar substance on his hands, said: “It’s not a big deal. I ain’t tripping.”
Neither are his peers, apparently.
NBA executives are another story.
Several players and coaches told The Vertical they have no issue with Howard or any other player using a Stickum-like substance, provided it doesn’t affect the game ball, like it did in Atlanta.
When McCutchen approached the Rockets’ bench on Saturday, Houston coach J.B. Bickerstaff appeared to move in front of the can in an attempt to block it from McCutchen’s view. Several league executives told The Vertical that if anyone should be punished it’s the Rockets, who knew the substance Howard was using was illegal – the can was covered in white tape – and then tried to cover it up.
I dislike ambiguous rules that can be selectively enforced. If unwritten rules are good enough to dictate play, they should be written. If not, they should be ignored.
The NBA rulebook is vague on this, and the league should provide clearer guidance on these substances. Talk to players, coaches and executives to determine where the line should be drawn.
Howard clearly violated the unwritten rule by applying the sticky spray in a way that affected the ball, as Paul Millsap complained. But, often in these situations, the first offender gets away with a warning. Future violators – hopefully of more explicit rules – will face the punishment.
But the Rockets’ cover-up could be judged more harshly. To function properly, the NBA needs to induce a certain amount of cooperation from its clubs. Punishment of rule-breakers who try to hide their crimes can serve as a deterrence.
I don’t feel strongly about whether the NBA punishes Howard and/or Houston. But the league should make its rules clear to avoid these types of ambiguities in the future.