While representing NBA stars from Europe like Tony Parker and Andrei Kirilenko, Connecticut-based agent Marc Fleisher has made a career of squeezing money out of NBA owners. That's why it was startling when he led a group to buy the French club Paris Racing last July for a reported 200,000 Euros ($271,000). His fellow owners include Parker, who played for Racing from 1999 to 2001. "I've found myself being a big pussycat," says Fleisher, who believes that European basketball is about to take off as the growth of digital TV creates demand for sports programming. "When a player calls me up and says, 'I didn't get my [rental] car, can I just have the money instead?' I'm always saying yes."
While the richest European club, CSKA Moscow, spends $25 million for players and operations, Racing's budget is $3.5 million. Apart from a brief controversy in which the players' paychecks were late, a common occurrence in European hoops, Paris has emerged as a feel-good story, with a 10-4 record through Sunday that ranked fourth in the 18-team French Pro A league. Yet Fleisher vows not to let sentiment get the best of his wallet: "We're going to make a budget and stick to the budget." NBA owners, take note.