ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 19: Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets shoots a free throw against the Atlanta Hawks on March 19, 2016 at Philips Center in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
AP Photo
March 21, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Dwight Howard is surprised and disappointed that he's being labeled a cheater.

The NBA is reviewing the Rockets center's use of a sticky substance on his hands during Houston's loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday. Atlanta's Paul Millsap complained about the ball while shooting free throws with 3:36 remaining in the first quarter. Howard had made a layup before Millsap's free throws.

Howard said Monday that he doesn't understand what all the fuss is about.

''I just think that it's getting overblown, like I'm doing something crazy,'' he said. ''But again, I've never been a cheater, never been the type of player that has to do something illegal to win. It's upsetting, but I can't control it now.''

After the incident, 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 removed, and one of the officials told the scorer to alert him if it was seen again.

Howard noted that many players use sprays and powders on their hands during games.

''I've been using the spray for the last five years,'' he said. ''I never hid the spray. I never did anything to try to hide what I was doing. It was just something to make my hands dry.''

There was no penalty issued during the game. Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff said the league interviewed him Sunday night, but he hasn't been notified of any disciplinary action. The Rockets play the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday.

Bickerstaff was surprised that anyone asked about the can, and by reports that the team tried to hide it from the officials.

''Every time Dwight goes into the game, it's the same routine,'' he said. ''It was no cover-up on my part.''

Bickerstaff said Howard has done nothing wrong.

''He's never run to the back in the locker room to try to trick anyone,'' he said. ''It was never brought to our attention. No one's ever said anything to us about it. If you go back, you can watch every single one of our games for the past three years, it's (the can) there. So we were obviously surprised by the attention it has drawn.''

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

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