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NBA warns Rockets over Dwight Howard's Stickum use, but no fine

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Howard accused of having sticky fingers (0:32)

In the first quarter of the Rockets' game against the Hawks, Dwight Howard touches the ball while walking to the paint. As Paul Millsap gets the ball to shoot a free throw, he complains to the referee that the ball has a foreign substance on it. (0:32)

The Houston Rockets on Monday received an official warning from the league office regarding Dwight Howard's admitted use of Stickum in a recent game against the Atlanta Hawks. Sources said Monday that will be the extent of the punishment for Howard and the Rockets.

Sources told ESPN.com that the NBA notified its 30 teams Monday via league memorandum that the Rockets were issued a formal warning because of "the team's use of an adhesive substance on a player's hands during a game." According to NBA rules, use of any adhesive substance "is strictly prohibited," and "during games" means the time period from 90 minutes before tipoff through the final buzzer.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver weighed in on the issue Tuesday, saying Howard's use of the sticky substance violates the spirit of the NBA rules.

"I thought the fair way to deal with it was to give a warning to Dwight and the Rockets and move on," he said. "I think it wasn't done in a hidden way. We sort of accept the fact that he has been doing it for many years, and presumably other players have as well. It's a violation of the spirit of our rules, and I think from a league office standpoint we realize maybe over the course of the next few months we have to be much more specific about certain kinds of rules."

Silver added it might be necessary for the league to look at tightening up their definition of the rule on use of any adhesive subtances.

"It's not that no foreign substance can be introduced, because we all know the scene of LeBron James with the talcum powder before the game, and nobody's saying, 'A powder to dry your hands should be prohibited,'" he said. "So it's live and learn. We need to be more specific. It was a violation of the spirit, but the proper way to deal with it was a warning and to move on."

Officials working Atlanta's 109-97 victory over Houston on Saturday removed a game ball because Howard had applied Stickum spray to his hands from a can covered in white tape while waiting to re-enter the game late in the first quarter. After Hawks forward Paul Millsap made the first of two free throws, Howard checked back in and grabbed the ball from the official. When Millsap got the ball back, he immediately questioned what was on it.

"I've never felt the ball like that -- ever," Millsap told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution 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."

Referee crew chief Monty McCutchen investigated before going to each bench and issuing a warning. According to the Journal-Constitution, McCutchen told each team: "Stickum is illegal in the NBA."

The newspaper reported that Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff slid in front of the can, which was still at the scorer's table, in an attempt to hide it before McCutchen approached Houston's bench. A member of the Rockets' staff ultimately removed the can from the scorer's table.

Howard shot just 2-for-7 from the field in the loss and finished with eight points and 17 rebounds in 35 minutes. He was not penalized during the game and said afterward that he has openly sprayed the sticky substance on his hands for the past five years.

"I don't know why people are making a big deal out of it," Howard said, according to the Houston Chronicle. "I do it every game. It's not a big deal. I ain't tripping."

The league office, as part of its announcement Monday, reminded teams that the only substances allowed to help players with gripping the ball are those that merely dry a player's hands, such as resin, chalk and liquid chalk. A more detailed list of guidelines, according to the league, will be issued to teams and players in advance of the playoffs.

Information from ESPN.com news services and ESPN's Calvin Watkins was used in this report.