Over the past few days, everyone has been debating how much the Tim Donaghy "crisis" will hurt league viewership.
In my opinion, the referee drama has eclipsed what the league's real problem is. Many people considered last years regular season to be one of the most boring regular seasons in recent memory, and I believe the historic ineptitude of the eastern conference was a big part of this. The season was capped off by an NBA finals that produced one great team, and another team that is going to show up on lists of "the worst NBA finalists ever" for years.
If the Donaghy scandal stays limited to one referee, I think the NBA will get through this current "crisis" without much trouble. People who like the NBA aren't going to stop watching because of one bad apple.
I think the league *will* suffer if the east doesn't improve. My guess is that not as many people were interested in watching the Eastern Conference playoffs last year due to the perceived superiority of the west, and as we all know people just weren't interested in watching an imbalanced NBA Finals.
David Stern can do whatever he wants to fix the referee thing, but my guess is that what the league really needs is for the east to be good again. The big market teams like New York, Boston, and Philly need to become more competitive so all the casual NBA fans on the east coast will be more inclined to tune in.