By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com
ORLANDO -- The rims will be rattling from dunkers, the nets will be burning up from shooters, the court will be alive with dribblers and for the first time fans will decide the big winner of All-Star Saturday Night.
One year after Blake Griffin shifted everyone's gears by leaping over a car to claim the championship in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, a quartet of first-time competitors will take flight in the fast lane trying to impress a worldwide audience of judges while vying for the 2012 title at Amway Arena.
Chase Budinger of the Houston Rockets, Paul George of the Indiana Pacers, Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz and Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves will compete for the crown that will be determined solely by fan voting on Twitter.
Evans replaces Iman Shumpert of the New York Knicks, who was forced to withdraw due to a knee injury.
The contest will consist of only one round and each competitor will execute three dunks. Fan voting will open after all four players have completed their first dunk. Previously, the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest consisted of two rounds, with the first round scored by a panel of judges which determined two finalists.
"I grew up watching some of the great dunk competitions of the late 90's and I'm honored to be asked to participate in this year's event," said the 6-foot-7 Budinger. "It seems like every year, the bar gets raised on this competition and I'm looking forward to coming up with something fresh and exciting for this year's contest. But I don't know how you top going over a car."
All-Star Saturday Night will also feature the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, the Haier Shooting Stars and the Taco Bell Skills competition.
James Jones of the Miami Heat will be out to defend his title in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest against a field consisting of Ryan Anderson of the Orlando Magic, Mario Chalmers of the Heat, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Anthony Morrow of the New Jersey Nets. Durant is taking the place of the Atlanta Hawks' Joe Johnson, who is out with a knee injury.
A year ago, Jones topped a field that included the Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Pierce had won the title in 2010, while Allen, the 2001 winner, is the career leader in 3-pointers made. Jones' 20 points in the final round topped Pierce's 18 and Allen's 15. Previous two-time winners include Jeff Hornacek, Jason Kapono, Mark Price and Peja Stojakovic, who won two titles each; Larry Bird and Craig Hodges each captured three straight.
The players will compete in the two-round competition with the top three finishers from the first round advancing to the finals.
Team Atlanta will attempt to become the first repeat Haier Shooting Stars champion as it competes against a field that includes squads representing New York, Texas and host city Orlando.
Team Atlanta features the Hawks' Jerry Stackhouse, who replaces the injured six-time All-Star Johnson, Lindsey Harding of the Atlanta Dream, and NBA TV analyst Steve Smith, an All-Star selection in 1998 with the Hawks.
Team New York is comprised of the Knicks' Landry Fields, the Liberty's Cappie Pondexter, and former Knicks great Allan Houston. Team Texas is represented by the Houston Rockets' Chandler Parsons, the San Antonio Silver Stars' Sophia Young, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith, a two-time NBA champion with the Houston Rockets (1994, 1995).
Team Orlando includes the Magic's Jameer Nelson, Florida native and three-time WNBA All-Star Marie Ferdinand-Harris, and former Magic great Dennis Scott.
Due to injury, Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors will not be able to defend his Taco Bell Skills Challenge title against a field consisting of Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs, John Wall of the Washington Wizards, Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets. Instead, Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics will compete in Curry's place.