Milwaukee’s protracted negotiations the Guangdong Tigers concluded yesterday with Yi Jianlian signing his rookie deal, news that should be met with wild enthusiasm at Long Wong’s (œthe World™s greatest Chinese-American sports bar). Before the party gets out of hand, however, the Journal-Sentinal’s Bob Wolfley has questions about Jianlian’s age.

Is Yi 19 years old as FIBA contends? FIBA is the ruling body of international basketball.

Or is he 22, which other sources say he is?

During the teleconference Wednesday from Hong Kong conducted with U.S. reporters, the Bucks were asked a simple question.

How old is Yi?

“He’s listed at 19, isn’t he?” came a comment from the Bucks’ end.

Bucks general manager Larry Harris then answered.

“Well, I would say this,” said Harris. “Obviously FIBA keeps their records and that’s what we go off. He’s listed as 19. It’s been a question that has been out there. But as far as we are concerned, we have to go off the documents that we have. He is 19 years old. Being with him today, he’s a fine young man. That’s what we are going with.”

But others insist Yi was born Oct. 27, 1984, which would make him 22. FIBA lists his birthday as Oct. 27, 1987.

Observers say that Yi’s correct age is listed for him at the Guangdong government social insurance site. That site lists the birth date for a Yi Jianlian as Oct. 27, 1984.

Moreover, a Chinese source e-mailed a reporter a class picture of Yi’s when he graduated from the sixth grade in the No. 3 class of the Xinxiu Elementary School in Shenzhen.

“Kids in China usually start going to school at 7 years old,” said the source. “And they should be at 13 years old by the time they finish the sixth grade, or at least 12 years old if they started when they were 6.

“Unless Yi started elementary school at 3, he can’t be 19 now,” the source said.