by Marcel Mutoni @marcel_mutoni

Once considered the showcase event of All-Star Weekend, the NBA Dunk Contest has lost much of its luster over the years.

The League’s biggest stars don’t want to participate – they usually only take part in it before they truly become superstars – and fans are often disappointed by the selected competitors.

But, it’s all not all bad news this year. Jeremy Lin is here to save the day! Well, sort of.

Lin has been tabbed to “assist” teammate Iman Shumpert in the dunking exhibition:

Sources with knowledge of the league’s plans told ESPN.com that Knicks rookie Iman Shumpert — one of four dunk-contest entrants alongside Houston Rockets forward Chase Budinger, Indiana Pacers swingman Paul George and Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Derrick Williams — will be enlisting Lin to “assist” him in a manner similar to the help 2011 champion Blake Griffin got from then-Los Angeles Clippers teammate Baron Davis [...] The New York Daily News reported Wednesday that the NBA is expected to make Lin part of the field for the Haier Shooting Stars competition during All-Star Saturday night, which would enable him to join Shumpert’s dunk routine as well. NBA commissioner David Stern told USA Today earlier this week that Lin will not be a special late addition to the annual Rising Stars game featuring rookies and second-year players All-Star Weekend.

Griffin is not defending his dunk title, but sources said that the annual dunk contest has a new format which will consist of only one round and in which the winner will be solely determined by fan vote. All four competitors in the 2012 dunk field are first-timers and will be formally announced later Thursday, sources said. Each entrant will get three dunks, with fan voting to open after the foursome completes their first dunks.

The new format for the competition – tweet your votes! – is an attempt by the NBA to get fans excited about the event, and though noble, it doesn’t change the fact that no marquee names are taking part in this year’s NBA Dunk Contest.

No offense, Jeremy Lin.