Shams Charania of The Vertical first relayed word of the league's decision.
Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle provided a memo from the NBA sent to the Rockets [sic]: "The use of adherent substance, such as such as Quick Drying Tape Adherent, during games is strictly prohibited. Substances that merely dry a player's hands" will be permitted, the memo stated, per Feigen.
In the first quarter of Saturday's contest, it became clear Howard sprayed Stickum on his hands prior to re-entering the game while Hawks forward Paul Millsap was at the free-throw line. Millsap noticed the ball had a foreign substance on it after Howard touched it following the first free-throw attempt.
"I've never felt the ball like that ever," Millsap told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Chris Vivlamore. "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."
Although the use of Stickum is illegal, the NBA decided not to reprimand the center even after he admitted he's been using the substance for some time.
"I've been using it for the last five years," Howard told reporters after the game, according to Feigen. "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."
Now that Howard and the Rockets can breathe a sigh of relief, they can focus their attention back on a tight Western Conference playoff race. Just one game ahead of the ninth-seeded Utah Jazz, the Rockets need Howard—shaky as he's been at times—patrolling the paint on both ends of the floor.
Beyond functioning as an explosive rim-runner in pick-and-rolls, Howard has remained a deterrent around the rim. According to NBA.com's player-tracking data, opponents are shooting 1.8 percentage points lower than their average inside of six feet when Howard is the primary defender this season.
The Rockets may be destined for a first-round postseason exit if they're fortunate enough to clinch an invitation to the playoff party, but that would still represent a positive step for a team that appeared to be wandering aimlessly into basketball purgatory following a 16-19 start.